The worldwide impact of the coronavirus spread cannot be understated. From countries implementing travel restrictions, businesses and schools closing, and record numbers of the unemployed, it has halted development on a global scale. Vaccines and treatments are currently underway but there is no firm date on when either of them will be available. In the meantime, Immunity Passports may be a way to navigate social circles without fear of contracting the disease.
Immunity Passport What?
An immunity passport is a proposed document that would certify that the document holder is either immune to the virus or cannot be infected. This could be achieved either from receiving a vaccine or having a high enough antibody count that re-infection would be impossible.
For the sake of this piece, we will assume that once infected, a person cannot be re-infected by COVID-19.
Both Estonia and Chile are experimenting with immunity passports or “release certificates.” From a business standpoint, these passports make sense. Restaurants, amusement parks, concerts, and museums could open up to passport holders ensuring business survival without endangering the public. However, this could create additional segregation in society. “Immune-Only” events might be seen as “elitist” and non-inclusive.
Passports … on the Blockchain?
As the passport would contain a high amount of sensitive information, privacy concerns must be first alleviated. TrueProfile is a document verification blockchain focused on solving this problem.
As René Seifert of TrueProfile explains, the blockchain offers a secure method of verifying someone’s immunity status. “A blockchain-enabled digital immunity passport could be viable if end-users provide proof of ID before testing and a permanent ‘digital fingerprint’ of the certificate is placed on the blockchain, which is used by a verifier, such as an employer, to check authenticity.”
Document verification on the blockchain is not a new idea. Several projects have already developed working demos. In 2018 Civic demoed a beer vending machine that used its blockchain to verify a user’s age. This kind of tech could easily be used to verify any kind of vaccination status. Civic promises to store personal information on the blockchain but only use it when requested. In this case, the vending machine is able to see someone’s age but not their address.
Technology giant Microsoft has been working on a blockchain identity solution publicly since 2019. “Project Ion,” as it is called, works on the Bitcoin blockchain but there has been little news for over a year. A cursory search shows the GitHub repository is still being updated.