The handling of health data has become an ever-growing issue during the coronavirus pandemic, with plans by governments worldwide to roll out digital immunity certificates fuelling both equality and data privacy concerns. Swiss think tank foraus says a global framework and proper data governance are needed.
With the vaccination campaigns now well underway in many countries, governments worldwide are exploring how digital documents, or so-called Covid passports, could help reopen their economies and borders by showing those who are protected against the virus.
Many schemes are already in place, like Israel’s “green pass” app, which allows people entry into venues including cinemas and restaurants. EU countries have backed the introduction of a “digital green certificate” that would show whether people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus. In Switzerland, the government aims to develop an internationally-recognised Covid certificate by the summer.
Benefits vs concerns. By proving one’s Covid credentials, it is hoped that these schemes could make it easier to reduce social distancing, free people from suffocating lockdowns and allow international travel. But many public health officials and rights groups remain deeply concerned, citing issues ranging from how personal data will be stored to technical challenges, as well as scientific unknowns around the vaccine’s immunity duration.
At the heart of the debate are also ethical questions and fears that Covid passports will widen the divide between the vaccine “haves and haves not”.
The case for a multilateral framework. To address these challenges, independent think tank Foraus is bringing together experts on Wednesday in an online discussion with the general public, with the aim of developing concrete policy proposals for tackling some of the governance concerns around immunity certificates.
With countries already starting to introduce their own Covid certificates, foraus said a global framework at a multilateral level urgently needs to be defined, with the potential for international Geneva to become a key player in the process.
Foraus project and stakeholder manager, Moritz Fegert, gives us an insight on the importance of engaging in a constructive dialogue to build trust and work towards stronger international governance in a new episode of the Geneva Solutions podcast:
“We realise that it’s really important to talk about the issues around immunity certifications. Many digital solutions have been developed since the beginning of the pandemic, but that also means a series of new problems around the use and management of health data. More so, there is a lack of public discussion. With everything that is happening, people tend to get lost with the amount of concepts that are presented and evolve in time.”