The Good Health Pass Collaborative has announced the release of the Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint.
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, ID2020 executive 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, 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.
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.
“It is likely that proof of COVID status will continue to be required as a precondition of international travel for the foreseeable future,” said Gruener. If broadly adopted, the standards proposed in the Good Health Pass Interoperability Blueprint will help create a trusted, convenient, and seamless experience for travellers as well as for airlines, airports, and border control agencies.”