Android phones can now save and display coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination cards, essentially making them a digital vaccine passport.
Google announced on Wednesday, June 30, that it is updating its Passes API to give developers at healthcare organizations, government agencies and other organizations authorized by public health authorities the ability to create digital versions of tests and vaccination cards that can then be saved directly to the users’ device.
The Passes API is typically used to store things like boarding passes, loyalty cards, gift cards, tickets and more to users’ Google Pay wallets. However, the Google Pay app, in this case, will not be required.
Aptly named COVID Card, it aims to make things more manageable for those who feel that paper proof of vaccination is easily misplaced. Google said that government agencies and certain healthcare organizations will be able to circulate the COVID Cards directly to users’ Google Pay apps.
Those without the Google Pay app will have the option to store the digital version of the COVID Card directly to their device, where it’s accessible from a home screen shortcut. Because Google is not retaining a copy of the card, anyone who needs to store the COVID Card on multiple devices will need to download it individually on each one from the healthcare provider or other organization’s app.
COVID Card supported by “big partners and states”
The COVID Card will show the healthcare provider or organization’s logo and branding at the top, followed by the person’s name, date of birth and other relevant information like the vaccine manufacturer or date of vaccination or test. According to a support document, healthcare providers or organizations could alert users to the ability to download their card via email, text or through a mobile website or app.
Google did not provide any information about which healthcare providers are interested in or planning to adopt the new technology. The tech giant said there are some big partners and states in the pipeline, but it doesn’t have permission to share those names at this time.
Android users cannot immediately create digital versions of their COVID vaccination cards.
The Passes API update is about giving developers the ability to begin building tools to export the data they have in their own systems about people’s COVID tests and vaccinations to a local digital card on Android devices. (Related: New update to UK NHS tracking app turns it into a VACCINE PASSPORT.)
For the feature to work, the Android device needs to run Android 5 or later and it will need to be certified by Play Protect – a licensing program that ensures the device is running real Google apps. Users will also need to set a lock screen on their device for additional security.
Google said the update will initially roll out in the U.S., followed by other countries.
Android phones used by governments to propagate fear
Android phones are increasingly becoming a tool for governments to create more fear as the pandemic winds down. (Related: Google has a financial interest to push the pandemic and the covid-19 vaccine experiments.)
Last month, Google appears to have automatically installed the COVID exposure notification app for Massachusetts on Android phones. “We have been working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to allow users to activate the Exposure Notifications System directly from their Android phone settings,” the tech giant said in a statement.
The app, called MassNotify, was launched in Massachusetts on June 15. Since then, a number of Android phone users in the state reported that the app had been automatically installed on their phones without warning or consent.
MassNotify uses Google and Apple’s Bluetooth-based system to let users who test positive for COVID-19 alert strangers whose phones have been nearby that they may have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes disease. It was built using the Exposure Notifications Express program.
On Android phones, that express process automatically creates a custom app for a state. It’s supposed to then alert Android users in the state that an application that they can download and install is available. In Massachusetts, users said it was downloaded automatically without getting that notice.
In a 1-star review on Google Play Store, one user wrote: “Absolutely did not install this on my phone” and added that it was “silently installed without any notification.”
According to the user, the Exposure Notifications System “doesn’t have an app icon … you have to go through settings and view all apps. This is a huge privacy and security overstep by [Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker] & Google.”
“Ghost installed on my phone without my consent. While I believe in what this app was meant to do, installing it without so much as a notification is extremely alarming,” another user wrote in a Google Play Store review.
One woman described the program as “spyware,” alleging that it “seems to want to track my location,” and noted that it uses Bluetooth.
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