The Digital Network of Networks: Regulatory Risk and Policy Challenges of Vaccine Passports

Wilford, Sara Helen, McBride, Neil, Brooks, Laurence, Eke, Damian Okaibedi, Akintoye, Simisola, Owoseni, Adebowale, Leach, Tonii, Flick, Catherine, Fisk, Malcolm orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1602-8393 et al (2021) The Digital Network of Networks: Regulatory Risk and Policy Challenges of Vaccine Passports. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 12 (2). pp. 393-403. ISSN 1867-299X

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The extensive disruption to and digital transformation of travel administration across borders largely due to COVID-19 mean that digital vaccine passports are being developed to resume international travel and kick-start the global economy. Currently, a wide range of actors are using a variety of different approaches and technologies to develop such a system. This paper considers the techno-ethical issues raised by the digital nature of vaccine passports and the application of leading-edge technologies such as blockchain in developing and deploying them. We briefly analyse four of the most advanced systems – IBM’s Digital Health Passport “Common Pass,” the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass, the Linux Foundation Public Health’s COVID-19 Credentials Initiative and the Vaccination Credential Initiative (Microsoft and Oracle) – and then consider the approach being taken for the EU Digital COVID Certificate. Each of these raises a range of issues, particularly relating to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the need for standards and due diligence in the application of innovative technologies (eg blockchain) that will directly challenge policymakers when attempting to regulate within the network of networks.

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