Heard about immunity passports before? Want to learn more about it? In this article, we will learn what immunity passports(risk certificates) all about and how blockchain-enabled passports would solve the existing issues.
Learning of the Blog
- What are Immunity Passports?
- Blockchain-Enabled Digital Immunity Passport
- Concerns to Consider
- Concluding Lines
We all know, deadly coronavirus has infected all continents across the globe. As almost all countries struggle to control the pandemic, governments, healthcare agencies, and others are trying to introduce and implement technologies to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) is working on a digital certificate that lets individuals prove they have been recovered from the pandemic using the recently approved W3C Verifiable Credentials standard.
Few have suggested the way to bring the crisis under control with a tool, ‘immunity passports’ that would help individuals return to their daily routines by ensuring that they are protected against re-infection. It is a belief that this technology tool can play a crucial role in ending this crisis. But there are security concerns related to this tool that blockchain can address and provide a viable solution.
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What are Immunity Passports?
The concept of immunity passports, also called ‘risk certificates’ can be seen as an advancement to deal with the pandemic. The basic idea behind this tool is to link the individual’s identity with their Covid-19 test status. Such immunity passports would depend on antibody tests that would signify whether someone has recovered from the infection – if yes, it would allow them to return to work. Such risk certificates will ensure that person is immune now and cannot get infected again. But the primary concern that lies with such COVID-related passports is data privacy, as they would contain personal health data.
Here it is important to note that, for now, this concept is under the development phase.
Blockchain-Enabled Digital Immunity Passport
The concept of digital immunity passports with the latest technology like blockchain can help in dealing with privacy and security concerns.
Enter Blockchain- Safer and Temper-Proof Environment
Blockchain is a peer-to-peer, decentralized, distributed ledger technology that operates without involving any third party interference/central authority. Here, each transaction is added as a block and is stored in a decentralized manner, ensuring nobody can play/temper with the stored data. Further, technology can ensure data governance, and individual privacy, unlike standard immunity passports where there are security risks.
Why is blockchain the solution? Firstly, it offers complete control to end-users about how their health-related data is being used. Secondly, it gives peace of mind by ensuring that their data is linked to their identity without any modifications by the third-party.
René Seifert, Co-Head at TrueProfile.io, explained how blockchain-enabled immunity passports would help. He stated that,
“A blockchain-enabled digital immunity passport could be viable if end-users provide proof of ID before testing. A permanent ‘digital fingerprint’ of the certificate is placed on the blockchain, which is used by a verifier, such as an employer, to check authenticity. Crucially, as test results are stored as a ‘fingerprint,’ this offers a form of encryption and makes sure that the digital certificate provided to the end-user is secure and tamper-proof by design, which means it is unalterably linked to their identity.’
He also explained that, with blockchain, there are no concerns about data security as each fingerprint is an individual that does not reveal any information.
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Concerns to Consider
As technologists are racing to build digital certificates that would enable individuals to prove whether they have recovered, such blockchain-enabled immunity passports have some implications. Few believe that the introduction of such passports could interfere with their human rights and civil liberties. Moreover, determining the accurate results of the pandemic is another major concern. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned about a lack of scientific evidence for the novel coronavirus immunity and currently, there is no solid evidence about the effectiveness and accuracy of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the precision of immunity passports.
According to Rene, “the biggest barrier to immunity passports is the testing itself.” Moreover, even scientists don’t have enough data on the body’s immune responses, which indicates that there is no idea how long an individual remains immune to this novel disease.
Blockchain has proved its success in many real-world applications and can be applied to support coronavirus outbreak fighting as well. The concept of blockchain-enabled immunity passports can be seen as a viable solution. But to enable it to truly work effectively, it is crucial that the antibody test is proven to show that end-users cannot get infected all over again.