Last reviewed 22 March 2021

As we reported recently, the Cabinet Office has launched a Call for evidence that will inform its planned review into certification concerning Covid-19 status (see Call for evidence regarding introduction of Covid certification).

Now comes news that the European Commission is putting forward draft legislation which will allow the creation of a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate free movement inside the EU.

The EU Certificate will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. It will be available, free of charge, in digital or paper format.

See ec.europa.eu for more details.

While the moves have been generally welcomed, however, the British Computer Society (BCS) has sounded a warning that these initiatives must not be allowed to put everyday rights at risk.

Creating a portable vaccine proof by adapting an app can be achieved technically, it agreed, but this comes with ethical and data privacy challenges.

“You can easily imagine how this data might be joined with other information, such as address, or key worker status,” Adam Leon Smith, Chairman of BCS’s Software Testing Group, said. “All with sensible intentions, but care needs to be taken that this data is not mis-used.”

One example of inappropriate use could be calculation of a risk score, he explained, with denial of rights or services to someone because of an algorithmic decision.

The BCS has pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far resisted mandating proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for international travel.

“It is vital to convince people that the passport will be ethical by design for it to be supported by large numbers of the population and the key organisations who’ll make it work,” Mr Smith concluded.