Privacy concerns cast shadow over vaccination passports

The lack of a clear blueprint for vaccination ‘passports’ that addresses public concerns around safety and security risks is undermining the implementation of vaccine mandates, warns the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology.

With vaccine passports for international travel reportedly just weeks away, there appears to have been little focus on the way a digital vaccine passport would work. Of particular concern are the unintended consequences of deploying such technology—as seen with Australia’s 9/11 technology response, which shifted notions of online privacy to address terror threats but saw online-surveillance for commercial use become the norm.

The Centre for Responsible Technology recommends 12 key principles that form the blueprint for a safe and secure vaccination ‘passport’, including:

  • Purpose limitations – only using data for its intended purpose and nothing else
  • Data Transparency – having clear and unambiguous terms and conditions
  • Data expiry – data expires after its intended use is fulfilled
  • Safety and security – safe from fraudulent and harmful access
  • Cover groups not eligible for Medicare – including temporary workers, residents and international students
  • Allows for verifiable non-digital format – caters to Australians with no/limited digital access

“We have learned over past 20 years, the unintended long-term consequences from deploying technology in a time of crisis. After 9/11 government radically shifted notions of online privacy to address the terror threat, directly building the model of routine surveillance of our online behaviour for commercial ends,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Centre for Responsible Technology.

“While we support vaccine verification, Australia needs to be vigilant that the technology does not summon a new era in spatial surveillance that could be adapted by government and business in ways contrary to public interest.

“Looking at vaccine verification as a single use technology, rather than a data generating exercise, would be an important guard rail against these risks.

“There is a place for vaccination passports but to get it right, safety and security risks must be addressed at the outset.

“The current verification process through the Federal Government’s MyGov app falls short on several of the key criteria outlined by the Centre for Responsible Technology.”

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Media Enquiries

Anna Chang Communications Director

0422 775 161

anna@australiainstitute.org.au