It’s looking increasingly like the government won’t have to do much of anything in terms of creating immunity passports for those who have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID. The private sector is beating them to the punch except in places like Florida where they have been banned. Reuters takes a look this week at a couple of vaccine passports that are quickly gaining in popularity. One of them is from a company called Clear. The Clear Health Pass was initially developed for use in airports, but it’s quickly being adopted by many private businesses. It’s similar to the Excelsior Pass being used in New York City and if you don’t have it installed on your phone, you may soon have trouble getting into major league sports events, concerts, or even public parks.
Over 60 U.S. stadiums and other venues are deploying an app from Clear to verify people’s COVID-19 status, placing the New York company known for its airport security fast lanes at the forefront of a national debate over “vaccine passports.”
Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants and New York Mets are among the first big businesses to demand guests prove they tested negative for the virus or are immunized against it. While the teams welcome paper proof, they encourage downloading records onto Clear’s Health Pass feature for convenience.
As with mask mandates, such requirements are under attack from Republican politicians and anti-surveillance activists, as un-American intrusions on civil liberties. They fear businesses will discriminate against the unvaccinated and unnecessarily amass personal data.
Privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been crying foul, saying that these apps may be storing private health data for an unlimited amount of time. Clear responds by saying that “users control their health records.” But that’s totally disingenuous, isn’t it? Yes, you control your own health records. But if you choose not to enter the information into their system you can’t produce the required result on your phone to gain entrance to wherever it is you’re trying to go.
Nearly all venues are still allowing paper identification such as a CDC vaccination card or recent COVID test result, but that’s going to take a lot longer for you to be processed and approved. And, of course, if you haven’t been vaccinated or tested, you’re out of luck.
Clear is already surging in use around the country. When they launched in 2019 there were just 22,000 downloads of their app. In 2020 that number shot up to 79,000 and in just the first four months of this year there have been just short of 300,000 downloads. The Clear Health Pass has been adopted by Las Vegas casinos, United Airlines, and major restaurant chains. The aforementioned Excelsior Pass is only used in New York State, but it’s had over 500,000 downloads thus far. The companion app that recognizes the Excelsior Pass has been installed by more than 40,000 businesses to date.
Of course, the one thing all of these apps share in common is that they allow the user to scan a document such as your CDC vaccination card and upload the picture for authentication. But as we’ve discussed here previously, fake CDC cards are already a hot commodity on the black market, with some being sold online for as little as 25 dollars. How are these apps guarding against a fake being used in this fashion for documents that didn’t even exist more than a few months ago? You can rest assured that they are not.
At some point, the federal government is going to need to decide whether these private passport systems are legal or not. Nobody in America was ever required to provide proof of a flu vaccination or any other type of immunity status before. We’re in completely uncharted waters here, and those who can’t or won’t be vaccinated are being quickly left behind. My fear is that with Democrats running the show in Washington these days, they will be all too happy to endorse this sort of control and discrimination. It may have to be put in the hands of the courts to decide.