What could go wrong with vaccine passports? ACLU issues a warning

Credit: Eric Esser/Shutterstock
Credit: Eric Esser/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden’s administration is working to establish a set of standards for people to prove they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19, an administration official said [March 4].

The official said the White House is working with government agencies, tech companies and non-profit organizations to plan and coordinate the effort, which is likely weeks away from being finalized.

Still, ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley warns “there’s a lot that can go wrong.”

“Any proposal for vaccine credentials must be primarily paper-based, decentralized, and protect privacy,” he said.


Stanley said any system that is exclusively digital would alienate individuals and communities without access to mobile devices or knowledge how to use them, such as senior and low-income people, or those with disabilities.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have cellphones, especially some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Stanley told CNN. “Over 40% of people over 65 do not have smart phones, so any system must have a paper-based functionality or it’s a nonstarter.”

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Stanley said the ACLU is “heartened” that the White House’s efforts appear to be in lockstep with their concerns and will remain cautiously optimistic.

“The devil is often in the details, and any proposed system will have to be examined closely,” he said.

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