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NY Forces Vaccination Verifications

They're not explaining their cryptographic model. They're not explaining the security, implementation. And on top of it, the pass itself is incredibly revealing, disclosing not only people's health status, and name but their date of birth

Reeling from scandal, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is now hoping to change subject.

NY is now rolling out the Excelsior Pass, created by IBM, an application that allows people to show if they have been vaccinated before attending events or places where proof is required.

According to IBM, Individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Wallet app. Each Pass will have a secure QR code, which participating companies and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of Wuhan test results or proof of vaccination. The individual’s data is kept by IBM and other third party vendors.

The program used for Excelsior is delivered through IBM’s Digital Health Pass application which was built on the Watson supercomputer.

“Watson Works” named after the company’s founder, is an IBM supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and analytical software in order to serve as a “question answering” machine. The platform essentially allows users to upload their data, compare it to corresponding data and allow users to get answers to complex questions based on their submitted data. The supercomputer facilitates the collection and analysis of real-time data from multiple sources allowing the businesses to make quick decisions surrounding the data.
Many question why New Yorkers are still requiring Excelsior users to adhere to further regulations despite usage of the “verification app”. The New York Health and Human Services department stated that app users will still be asked to follow health guidelines, including social distancing, face coverings and hand-washing/sanitization procedure.
Most criticism surrounding the application sprout from the controversial “Authorization to Disclose” disclosure which doesn’t state how the pertinent meta data is tracked or kept safe.

“I have more detailed technical documentation about the privacy impact of nearly every app on my phone than I do for this health pass,” said Albert Fox Cahn, an attorney and the founder of Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a privacy rights advocacy group.
“IBM and the governor are using lots of buzzwords, but they’re not explaining their cryptographic model. They’re not explaining the security, implementation. And on top of it, the pass itself is incredibly revealing, disclosing not only people’s health status, and name but their date of birth.”

Cahn went on to emphasize that no guarantees listed on the terms of service document determining whether the information won’t be accessed by police departments. Cahn specifically pointed to the application’s terms of service, which he said “have absolutely nothing to do with this type of app” and don’t specifically cite the type of blockchain technology—including public, private, consortium, or hybrid–IBM utilizes.

Thursday, the Biden administration stated it is leaving the responsibility of creation and standardization of a vaccination passport to the private sector, creating even more questions about the new application.

The Excelsior application is slated to be rolled out beginning April 2nd.

Terrence Dorner, B1Daily

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