The Covid pandemic has had a significant impact on the global economy, and no industry has been left untouched. However, the effects have been acute in the aviation, tourism and hospitality sectors. They have suffered from the travel restrictions that were imposed to fend against the global spread of the virus. The restrictions were necessary to protect the health of citizens worldwide, however they will be gradually lifted as vaccination programs progress around the world. Even so, there is one critical concern for governments – the guarantee that health certificates contain the correct test result or vaccine confirmation so that they are trusted worldwide.
To support governments in this critical situation, global standard-setting bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have been developing standards to specify minimum security and interoperability requirements for health certificates. The European Union has also been proposing a Digital Green Certificate regulation based on strong data protection, ensuring inclusiveness for all.
Fraud, a challenge when accessing accurate health information
Nowadays, border control agents and airlines need to observe extensive entry requirement guidance and determine the authenticity of the health certificates presented to them. However, just as with identity documents, counterfeit health certificates are in circulation. Additionally, the use of fraudulent health certificates has increased since the administration of vaccines. These fake health certificates are a significant risk to public health, and influence the trust that needs to be established worldwide. As trusted actors, governments are in the best position to guarantee the authenticity of health certificates and the identity of those presenting them.
Health Pass, leveraging proven technologies
In order to ensure interoperability and harmonization worldwide, ICAO has released a standard that has been tailor-made for health certificate purposes – Visible Digital Seal (VDS). The VDS is a special 2D barcode that has been adapted to meet the current health travel requirements and is signed using a Country Signing Certification Authority (CSCA) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Governments can therefore leverage this existing PKI infrastructure that is already in use for ePassports or set-up a new one for health purposes. Thanks to this, a country can rapidly roll out digitally sealed health certificates called Health Passes, adapting these solutions to its needs while complying with international health certificate standards. The use of proven technologies by governments facilitates adoption and feasibility.
Inclusiveness and data privacy
The Health Pass is for all use cases and environments. Various type of health certificates exists, and will co-exist in the future. For this reason, it is crucial the Health Pass is able to include all types of certificates, such as PCR tests, proof of immunity and vaccinations. It is only by doing so that governments can guarantee the solution will not discriminate against individuals who, for various reasons, have not been vaccinated. Health Passes should be also available in various forms including, a downloadable government-issued health mobile wallet, a PDF document sent by email or a sticker to put on a passport visa page. Health Passes can also be printed and handed to a traveler directly in a laboratory.
There must be no compromise when it comes to the protection of personal data. At IDEMIA, we suggest a privacy-by-design approach is the best way to ensure information concerning a traveler’s personal health is always protected. This allows the user to be the sole holder of their Health Pass without the need of centralizing sensitive health data.
Online and offline verification
The seamless integration of the Health Pass into the existing process of the passenger journey is the key. Border control agencies, as well as airlines and airport operators, are searching for the solution to upgrade their processes for verifying Health Passes. They have the option to either upgrade their touchpoints with Health Pass verifications, integrate Health Pass verification with a traveler’s biometrics during the pre-check-in process, or provide personnel with a mobile app/SDK verifier.
During check-in, border control or boarding, a biometric match between the passenger’s face and their passport photo validates their identity, and the Health Pass is verified against the identity of its holder. This confirms the authenticity of the health test result or vaccine confirmation and its allocation to the passenger. This quick process for both travelers and security staff will guarantee convenience and cut airport congestion when restrictions to international air travel are lifted. Online and offline capabilities will guarantee access to verification from anywhere anytime.
The global economy is dependent on the deployment of secure, trusted and interoperable Health Pass solutions to kickstart its recovery. Governments play a key role in ensuring international public trust, and aviation industry leaders are ready to assist them in developing technologies that combine safety and ease of use. At IDEMIA, we are focused on our mission to support governments around the world with end-to-end border solutions and identity programs. Thanks to our expertise, we position our Health Travel Pass as an initiative that paves the way to return to free movement.