Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint proposes a privacy-preserving alternative to vaccination “certificates” for international travel
Over the past six months, the Collaborative has brought together more than 125 global companies and organizations from across the health, travel, and technology sectors to define principles and standards for digital health passes aimed at restoring international travel and restarting the global economy.
At the February 9 launch of the Collaborative, ID2020executive director Dakota Gruener warned that “to be valuable to users, [digital health] credentials need to be accepted at check-in, upon arrival by border control agencies, and more. We can get there – even with multiple systems – as long as solutions adhere to open standards and participate in a common governance framework. But without these, fragmentation is inevitable, and travelers – and the economy –will continue to suffer needlessly as a result.”
“Yesterday marked 17 months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and yet travelers and the economy are continuing to suffer,” said Gruener. "The delta variant – and the inevitability of other emergent variants – has led to growing calls for digital health passes, both domestically and internationally. Making digital health passes work for international travel will require international alignment, not only on technical specifications but also on a framework for building trust so that they can be accepted by airlines and border control agencies around the world."
The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint proposes a new set of interoperability specifications which, as they are adopted, will allow airlines and governments to verify travelers’ COVID status (proof of vaccination, testing, and recovery), while simultaneously ensuring that core principles – such as privacy and security, user-control, and equity – are protected.
The publication of the Blueprint comes days after the WHO released new technical specifications and implementation guidance for vaccination certificates for COVID-19, which itself followed the release of similar specifications from the European Union (EU) for their Digital COVID Certificate.
Both of these specifications provide valuable guidance for member countries by creating a standardized format for digitally-signed vaccination “certificates.” The data contained in these certificates – which includes an individual’s name, date of birth, where they were vaccinated, which vaccine they received, and batch number, and more – are necessary and valuable in a clinical setting. However, determining whether an individual is safe to travel, return to work or attend events can be achieved without sharing that level of detailed information.
“When we are asking individuals to verify health-related information, it’s critical to right-size that request to meet the need and intent of the disclosure – no more, no less,” says Gruener. “Data minimization, which limits the amount of data included in certificates, is critical. The Blueprint goes a step further to ensure that health passes don’t include more information than verifiers, such as airlines, need or want.”
The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint proposes a format for digital health passes, which not only applies full data minimization but also signs each data field separately. This allows a verifier to request only the fields they absolutely need without compromising trust in the authenticity of the data.
Called “selective disclosure”, this privacy-preserving design allows digital health passes to significantly reduce the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) and private health information (PHI) being shared with airlines or other verifiers. It provides travelers with greater transparency about what data they are consenting to share while simultaneously reducing liability exposure for airlines.
The WHO specifications provide countries with recommendations for establishing a national trust architecture. The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint goes a step further, by providing much-needed guidance on the creation of an international trust framework, which will be essential for facilitating verification of certificates and passes issued internationally. The Blueprint proposes a decentralized international trust architecture to facilitate fast and seamless verification, by governments and private sector actors alike.
Expediting the Return to International Travel
The process of developing technology standards can take years – or even decades. While the process may be slow, standards are an essential mechanism for achieving interoperability, whether for USB cables, Bluetooth headphones, or digital health passes for international travel.
The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint addresses – in considerable depth and detail – nine technical and interoperability challenges around which global consensus must be reached:
- Design principles
- Creating a consistent user experience
- Standard data models and elements
- Credential formats, signatures, and exchange protocols
- Security, privacy, and data protection
- Trust registries
- Rules engines
- Identity binding (ensuring the authenticity of the holder)
The Blueprint was developed through an open and inclusive process. More than 120 expert volunteers from the health, travel, and technology sectors came together through nine “drafting groups”, managed through a partnership with the Trust Over IP Foundation, a project of the Linux Foundation. A draft version was released on June 7 for a period of public review and comment and the resulting feedback was incorporated into the final publication.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the travel and tourism industry – and the economies of many tourism-dependent countries – to the brink of collapse. In 2020 alone, more than 62 million individuals – mostly low and middle-income workers – lost their livelihoods as the sector contracted by 49.1 percent (US$ 4.5 trillion). In the absence of urgent global leadership on this issue, travel and tourism are not expected to rebound in 2022 – or even 2023.
“Restoring international travel and tourism will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the global economy, especially for those countries that rely most heavily on tourism,” said Gruener. “It is likely that proof of COVID status will continue to be required as a precondition of international travel for the foreseeable future. If broadly adopted, the standards proposed in the Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint will help create a trusted, convenient, and seamless experience for travelers as well as for airlines, airports, and border control agencies.”
Additional Supporting Quotes
“The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint has the potential to facilitate greater collaboration between governments and industries, allowing the exchange of information among an ecosystem of stakeholders, in a way that preserves privacy and builds an environment of trusted interactions. This is critical today as we return to work, travel, and events. We are proud to be a part of the next phase of this important initiative as the proposed standards pave the way for more informed, seamless and convenient interactions.”
Christine Leong, Global Blockchain Identity Lead, Accenture
Linux Foundation Public Health
Interoperability, privacy protection, and community collaboration have been the three core pillars of our work at Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH), which prompted us to host the COVID Credentials Initiative and invest heavily in supporting the Good Health Pass Collaborative. The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint provides a comprehensive and much-needed framework for resuming international travel, which we are turning into reality through our Global COVID Certificate Network, a new project to help jurisdictions reopen borders in a safe and trustworthy manner.
Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Linux Foundation Public Health
“Travel is integral to a thriving global economy. So is our collective health. Being able to convey health credentials conveniently, securely and with trust is part of rebuilding confidence in international travel. The Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint is an important step in enabling a digital experience that will create the foundations for the future of travel - where passengers can present their information efficiently, transparently and with privacy, and where digital identity enriches the experiences of all society.”
Ajay Bhalla, President, Cyber & Intelligence, Mastercard
Tony Blair Foundation for Global Change
“Allowing international travel to resume safely means we must take all possible steps to limit the spread of new COVID–19 variants. We urgently require an internationally-recognised system of health passes enabling travellers to quickly and easily prove their health status, in a secure and privacy-preserving way. The Good Health Pass Collaborative is doing vital work to develop the standards necessary to support this. Political leaders should now get behind this. The G20 group of nations should commit to establish a network of globally interoperable health passes, and set up the working groups needed to deliver it.”
Tony Blair, Executive Chairman, Tony Blair Foundation and Former UK Prime Minister
Trust Over IP Foundation
“The travel industry is facing challenges that require global-scale digital trust. To meet these challenges the Trust Over IP Foundation was uniquely positioned to bring people together to create the Good Health Pass Blueprint for Interoperability, and we’ve been honored by the opportunity to do so. Collaboration and cooperation were hallmarks of what we achieved in record time, with contributors spanning industries and governments worldwide. We now look forward to helping make the Blueprint’s recommendations operational, so people can identify themselves, share information, and travel with confidence.”
John Jordan, Executive Director, Trust Over IP Foundation
World Travel & Tourism Council
“The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) applauds the Good Health Pass Collaborative for working so tirelessly to develop their Blueprint and ensure the global collaboration needed to produce these important guidelines. WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, believes that public and private collaboration is vital to accelerate the recovery of a sector, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President, and Acting CEO, World Travel & Tourism Council
ID2020 is a global public-private partnership that harnesses the collective power of nonprofits, corporations, and governments to promote the adoption and implementation of user-managed, privacy-protecting, and portable digital ID solutions.
By developing and applying rigorous technical standards to certify identity solutions, providing advisory services and implementing pilot programs, and advocating for the ethical implementation of digital ID, ID2020 is strengthening social and economic development globally. Alliance partners are committed to a future in which all of the world’s seven billion people can fully exercise their basic human rights while ensuring data remains private and in the hands of the individual. www.id2020.org.
About the Trust over IP Foundation
Launched in 2020, the Trust over IP Foundation is an independent project hosted by the Linux Foundation. Its members include over 300 leading companies, organizations, and individual contributors sharing expertise and collaborating to define standard specifications to advance a secure trust layer for the digital world. Through this collaborative effort, the Trust over IP Foundation aims to define a complete architecture for Internet-scale digital trust that combines cryptographic verification at the machine layers with business, legal, and social accountability at the human layers.. www.trustoverip.org.
Contact: Ethan Veneklasen, Head of Advocacy and Communications, ID2020
Phone: +1 (510) 240-9081
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