June 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A U.S. biometrics firm has launched a new “health pass” phone application that uses one’s biometrics and health information linked to the user’s official ID to act as a COVID-19 pass, which could allow or deny a person entry into a supermarket, church, or workplace.
The new “health pass” application was launched in late May by the biometrics company Clear. According to Clear’s website, the user must download and be registered on the free Clear mobile app to be able to use the “health pass” feature.
“Health pass is a free service on the CLEAR mobile app that connects your verified identity — using CLEAR’s established biometric platform — with a live health screening, creating safer entry experiences for all,” says the Clear website.
The company currently has a system called ClearPass, which is widely used in U.S. airports and some sports stadiums and enables one who pays the $179 fee to speed through security checks. Like “health pass,” it uses one’s biometric data linked to an official ID.
The “health pass” service is being marketed for businesses to scan arriving employees at a workplace, giving them a passing or failing COVID-19 grade, which determines whether they can enter.
Clear’s CEO, Caryn Seidman-Becker, said on CNBC’s Squawk Box on May 15 that there will be a “shift” in how security screening is conducted in the future.
“Just like [airport] screening was forever changed post-9/11, in a post-COVID environment, you’re gonna see screening and public safety significantly shift,” predicted Seidman-Becker on the CNBC show.
“But this time it’s beyond airports,” she added, going on to list stadiums, restaurants, workplaces, and stores as places that might be able to use the new technology.
“While we started with travel, at our core we’re a biometric secure identity platform,” said Seidman-Becker.
Once the app is downloaded on a person’s phone, the subscriber first verifies his identity with facial recognition software. If one wishes to enter a business or other location that uses the “health pass,” the person must take a photo of himself to authenticate their identity and take a COVID-19 health quiz.
After this point, a user of the app will then approach the Clear pod for screening, where he can use an encrypted QR code made by the app or a scan of his face to share the data. The results, which could include temperature checks, are then displayed.
Seidman-Becker said that “privacy and data security is job one,” but two U.S. senators have come out raising privacy concerns regarding Clear’s new “health pass.”
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Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) sent a letter dated May 21, to Seidman-Becker asking questions regarding the company’s privacy practices and those of the “health pass” app.
“While we appreciate CLEAR’s contribution to the discussion of safely reopening our nation’s economy, the use of facial recognition technology poses real privacy concerns,” said the senators in a letter to Seidman-Becker.
“Though there are some potential benefits and expediencies, this technology can also be utilized widely and passively in such a way that eludes consumers’ awareness, permission, or the ability to opt-out. If over or misused, facial recognition technology risks a state of undetectable, constant government surveillance that can track one’s movements and associations with organizations such as schools and places of worship.”
Clear says that the “health pass” service is being currently marketed to businesses, but it hopes to expand this in the future to many different platforms.
“Now with the launch of CLEAR Health Pass, it’s about attaching your identity to your COVID-related health insights, for employers, for employees, for customers — everybody wants to know that each other’s safe,” said Seidman-Becker on the CNBC show.
Clear’s Health Pass does not allow for coronavirus testing currently, but Seidman-Becker says she hopes the technology will continue to “evolve.”
“Screening 2.0 is a multi-layered approach to buy down risk and increase confidence. So it starts from a mobile app perspective with facial — connecting your face to your identity and the [health] questionnaire,” said Seidman-Becker.
“You then bring that into the physical environment where it’s about your questionnaire and then temperature … it’s about linking to lab companies and test data … and this will continue to evolve.”
Clear is currently partnered with Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Express, and Hertz for its Clear Pass system. The company is hoping to expand its “health pass” to more than just airports.
According to an Axios report, Clear is in talks with restaurateurs in the US, along with the New York Mets baseball team and the Las Vegas COVID-19 recovery task force, to expand the use of its “health pass.”
The Axios report raises questions about how effective Clear’s “health pass” would be, saying there is not a “guarantee” that users answer the health quiz honestly and that temperature checks would not catch asymptomatic individuals.
The Axios report also raises the concern that although “health pass” is opt-in, “it's difficult to see how truly voluntary any such system would be if it is mandated, as employers are already permitted to perform temperature checks.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that temperature screening is allowed by employers considering the “risks” associated with COVID-19, despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) not allowing for this.
“Generally, measuring an employee's body temperature is a medical examination. Because the CDC and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees' body temperature. However, employers should be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever,” says the EEOC.
Many government authorities in both the U.S. and Canada have in recent weeks launched government-sanctioned contact tracing applications.
Recently, the governor of the state of Washington suggested that those who refuse to cooperate with contact tracers or testing for the coronavirus would not be allowed to leave their homes for even food or medical supply shopping.
A recently introduced bipartisan bill known as H.R. 6666 would authorize the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to “award grants to eligible entities to conduct diagnostic testing for COVID–19, to trace and monitor the contacts of infected individuals, and to support the quarantine of such contacts.”
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, recently said his federal government would fund provincial efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing. He also said he would increase funding to expand contact tracing of those who test positive, with the goal being to share the data across the country.
Alberta was the first Canadian province to release its optional contact tracing application, which has been downloaded thousands of times.