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The ACLU Has Grave Concerns Over One Aspect of Vaccine Passports

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

In order to get the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic under control, the government, in conjunction with medical professionals, is pushing Americans to be immunized against the virus. Some have talked about implementing a "COVID vaccine passport," which would provide proof of immunization before everyday occurrences, like traveling or even entering a place of business. 


Conservatives have voiced concerns about the Big Brother thought process behind the move. Where is the line drawn and where would this end? How do we know these passports won't be used for other aspects of our lives?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has concerns, at least on the digital front.

While the lefty organization doesn't take issue with vaccine passports as a whole, they take issue with these passports being used on a digital platform.

According to the ACLU, an exclusively digital passport system is a "nonstarter because it would increase inequality." Those who are poor, disabled, homeless or seniors would be greatly impacted. Those demographics are the least likely to have smartphones, which would be necessary for digital passports. Digital passports would create a burden on those demographics.  

"Our health care system is already ridden with inequities from top to bottom; we don’t want to worsen that situation by closing off even more societal benefits from those who can least afford it, or who have reason to fear such a system — including immigrant communities and communities of color who are already subject to over-policing and surveillance," the ALCU said in a blog post.

The organization also warned about privacy concerns and the lack of "user control," which could then spread to other health records and licenses.


"Numerous companies, technologists, and academics have already generated a variety of concepts, standards, and products that would let us use cryptographic files or “tokens” on our phones to prove things about ourselves across our lives," the post said. "The best of these schemes — and the only ones that should be considered for any digital elements of a vaccine credential system — take a decentralized and open source approach that puts individuals in control of their credentials and identity data, which they would hold in a digital wallet."

But, according to the ACLU, that's not the only privacy concern. There is also the potential for new databases to be established based on movement patterns. Where we go, how we get there, who we're with – those could be tracked through technology, and, specifically, through these passports. There's no way to know if our data will be used for something completely different than what we're told. 

"If some big company is getting notified any time someone reads one of your credentials, that would let them track your movements and interests — the stores, concerts, and transportation venues you visit, and much more," the organization explained. "In the absence of airtight legal protections for privacy, any such information could then be sold for commercial purposes or shared with law enforcement."


There is also one glaring question: what's the answer for those who are unable to get vaccinated due to health conditions or allergies? How do they fit into this?

Although the ALCU brings up valid points about the digital passport they should take issue with passports in general. There are still privacy concerns with paper passports. We don't know what companies will require Americans to show proof of immunization, whether or not they will take copies of that information, or how it will be stored. If we have those immunization records on paper and every company requires them, the business can scan the paper card into their computer system and upload them onto the internet or web-hosting database they use. If every business does that, a person's whereabouts and who they were with can be tracked. It's just not as easily as accessible as a digital passport.

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