Vaccine Passports are Poised to Serve Private Sector Interests | by Iretiolu Akinrinade | Apr, 2021 | Data & Society: Points
Vaccination credentialing may satisfy the interests of virtually limitless stakeholders, because vaccine credentials are predicated on creating a specific and verifiable identity across space and time.
In typical American fashion, the US government is relegating the creation of digital vaccination certifications (i.e. proof of one’s vaccination status) to the private sector. Working groups to create vaccine passports are now forming to unite public entities and privacy corporations with individuals working in healthcare information technology, information security, and digital identity software engineering . According to the Covid Credentials Initiative, a vaccination credentials initiative created by the Linux Foundation, many of their collaborators come from early-stage verifiable credentials start-ups. Conversely, the Vaccination Credentials Initiative, tasked with developing a single Smart Health Card, involves big tech companies such as Oracle and Microsoft, and health IT companies like Mayo Clinic.
The unification of large and small entities working on vaccine passports is designed to make verifiable credentials applicable and accessible across sectors. Unfortunately, creating this infrastructure paves the way for increased reliance on digital identities in the U.S. Ultimately, corporate collaborations on vaccine credentials are presenting techno-solutionist answers to a complex public health problem, while simultaneously using the COVID-19 pandemic to further private sector goals.
Credentialed digital identification will likely become easier across sectors. The 2019 W3C Verifiable Credentials Use Case document identifies retail, education, finance, and healthcare as potential domains where verifiable credentials can be used. The rapid innovation and interoperability established for vaccine credentials may trickle down to different products and industries, with unintended consequences.
As scholar Ruha Benjamin explains, a more complete view of the impact of technologies begins far before a project has materialized and functions as discriminatory. Therefore, it is necessary to pay equal attention to the “social inputs that make some inventions appear inevitable and desirable,” in order to understand the underlying assumptions that working-groups members have agreed upon
If a single corporation were to serve as the knowledgeable body to inform legislation on their own technology, there would be a clear conflict of interest
Collaborative working groups may also appear altruistic by making their products open-source. However, the idea that open-sourcing or distributed sharing is a ‘universal good’ is a fallacy when it comes to highly invasive tech