Proving that you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccination could be, quite literally, your passport to the world. Being able to show this information on a smartphone, an item most people carry around everywhere, makes total sense.
But while Apple’s likely happy about such a valuable use-case for the iPhone, it’s also cautious about the possibility of this. Not only are third-party apps that promise to feature this information handling incredibly sensitive data, but there’s additionally the possibility that unscrupulous or insensitive developers could try and create fake or satirical COVID-19 vaccine certification apps.
For that reason, Apple has announced on its developer page that apps which feature health passes, based on vaccinations, can only be submitted by developers that are working with official health authorities. This should help crack down on the possibility of abuse.
Doing Health Passes the Right Way
As spotted by 9to5Mac, Apple writes in its note to developers that:
“With the recent release of COVID-19 vaccines, we’ve seen an increase in apps that generate health passes used to enter buildings and access in-person services based on testing and vaccination records.To ensure these apps responsibly handle sensitive data and provide reliable functionality, they must be submitted by developers working with entities recognized by public health authorities, such as test kit manufacturers, laboratories, or healthcare providers.As with other apps related to COVID-19, we also accept apps submitted directly by government, medical, and other credentialed institutions.”
Apple already shows a high level of control and moderation over what is and isn’t allowed in the App Store. However, when it comes to something as important as possible coronavirus transmission, it’s understandable that it would want to take extra precautions.
After all, these certifications could be the decision-maker in whether or not a person travels, is allowed into school, work, or any other settings where transmission is possible. Already there are suggestions that Apple should be responsible for the accuracy of the App Privacy labels in iOS 14, something that it introduced on a purely voluntary basis. The potential for a (justifiable) backlash if Apple helped distribute unauthorized vaccine certification apps is pretty significant—even if it did nothing more than host them.
Apple’s Coronavirus App Policies
This latest policy is really just an extension of Apple’s existing policies regarding coronavirus apps.
In March 2020, Apple updated its app policies to state that only, “government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions” should submit COVID-19 apps. At the time, Apple also stated that, “Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed.”
Image Credit: Unsplash/Hakan Nural CC