What Digital Vaccine Passports Mean for the Future of Digital IDs

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Identity verification is common. Whether we are verifying our ID at a club or passports at an airline, our identities have become a critical part of accessing certain services.

Recent technological advances have made a digital ID a viable alternative for users to verify their identities.

In this article, we explore what digital vaccine passports could mean for the future of digital IDs.

Digital Vaccine Passports

Experts view vaccination as one of the steps towards building collective immunity. These vaccines are providing hope of returning to “normal” and helping with economic recovery.

The use of vaccine certificates is rising as a means to verify the vaccination status of a person. Vaccine certificates facilitate international travel for vaccinated individuals. In some countries, the vaccinated can access social events that previously couldn’t be held.

While some countries have provided physical, paper-based proof of vaccination, digital vaccine certificates are growing in popularity.

Digital Vaccine Passports: A Modern Approach, New Challenges

Vaccine certificates have been around for years. The most common is the Yellow Card, which has been around since the 1930s. This paper-based certificate is required for people traveling from certain countries with a high risk of yellow fever transmission.

Digital versions of vaccination certificates have become a popular way of proving vaccination against certain diseases due to the growing cases of forgery and fake vaccination credentials.

While paper-based versions of vaccine certificates are easier to lose or counterfeit, digital versions can present issues with security and privacy.

These two issues have been present in discussions about developing a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate. So sensitive are issues of privacy and security, that countries like the US do not have a federal mandate to use vaccine certificates as proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Meanwhile, several US states have banned the use of these certificates for their residents.

The effectiveness of digital certificates lies in the ability to protect the user’s data and privacy by applying relevant technology, including public key infrastructure. Using the minimum information necessary also protects a person’s data from unauthorized personnel.

Lessons for Digital IDs

Effective vaccine passports should reassure users of their safety while protecting sensitive data. Different organizations and experts have developed minimum standards that digital IDs must meet to be effective.

These standards address the challenges that digital IDs are likely to encounter, including security, privacy, accessibility, and surveillance. Canadian-based Digital ID & Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC), for example, has spent years developing Digital ID innovations to address these challenges.

ID2020 is another organization focused on advocating for a trustworthy digital ID that is in the hands of users.


Done right, digital identity can provide a secure and effective way for users to prove their identity.  It can also help them share existing credentials such as their driver’s license, passports, or health cards for various transactions without disclosing sensitive information. Digital COVID-19 vaccination certificates should adhere to critical standards for them to serve their intended purpose without invading privacy or disclosing unnecessary data to unauthorized parties.

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