Netherlands concerned about privacy in future EU Covid travel pass
The Dutch Ministry of Health has pointed out several privacy concerns regarding the use of European Covid-19 certificates, Trouw reported. The document developed under the name “Digital Green Pass” is meant to soon allow people vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who tested negative for the viral infection to travel more easily across Europe
However, it will contain more medical data than the Netherlands had hoped. According to a spokesperson for the ministry, these certificates will also indicate which Covid-19 vaccine someone was given. The document will also show dates when doses were administered. Information implying whether a person has already suffered from a Covid-19 infection before will thus also be visible.
"I am amazed that it is clear which vaccine is involved because such medical data is very sensitive. It is not clear to me why the type of vaccine should be visible," said privacy lawyer Jurriaan Jansen.
Holders of the digital certificates will likely be able to avoid testing or quarantine when traveling abroad. This will be done through a special app that indicates whether people have already had Covid-19, received a jab against it, or tested negative for the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The initiative that is currently discussed at the European level will most likely enter into force on July 1.
The Netherlands did not want this specific level of information visible in the documents, the Ministry of Health spokesperson told Trouw. Dutch endeavors were allegedly dismissed during EU talks on the issue between the member states, and the Netherlands ultimately dropped its objection.
"Our commitment to the digital certificate has always been, ‘A code that cannot be traced back to the person. But something different has now been agreed with the EU countries.’"
In addition to privacy concerns, setbacks in the use of a central system keeping track of the country’s vaccination progress may also cause delays for the introduction of travel documents. Vaccinations not included in the RIVM’s CIMS database could result in the recipient being denied their travel pass.
A recent Nieuwsuur investigation determined that over a million shots still have not been registered either due to patient privacy concerns, or a slow response rate form organizations apart from the GGD providing vaccine shots. That means at least 13 percent of Dutch Covid-19 vaccinations still have not been registered in the centralized system from the RIVM, an improvement from the prior estimate of 30 percent when the issue was raised by the Outbreak Management Team last month.
During a press conference two weeks ago, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge acknowledged concerns that the slow uptake of the CIMS registration system could have an impact on people's ability to travel freely this summer. "The more that is in that central database, things will go wrong less easily. In short, technically, it is a huge job that we have to do at the moment. We just want to be ready before the summer vacation starts," said De Jonge.