Apple is not developing a coronavirus vaccine passport with Google, despite European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s assertion that such an app is in the works.
On Thursday, von der Leyen told reporters Apple and Google were developing a potentially travel-boosting solution for the World Health Organization. However, “a person familiar with Apple’s position” says the EC boss is mistaken.
Bloomberg reported Friday:
“After a five-hour video call with the European Union’s 27 leaders on Thursday, von der Leyen told reporters that it was ‘important to have a European solution’ to establish certificates to enable countries to reopen to travel because ‘Google and Apple are already offering solutions to the World Health Organization.’
Within hours, a spokesperson from the WHO said ‘neither Google nor Apple’ were involved in the process and a person familiar with Apple’s position suggested that von der Leyen had misunderstood.”
On Friday, a person “close to the commission president” said some tech companies are working with the WHO on a private basis. However, “Apple employees aren’t among them.”
Where the misunderstanding came from
As coronavirus vaccines roll out around the world, there has been increased discussion about so-called vaccine passports. These would provide documented evidence that a person has receive the necessary vaccinations against COVID-19. This, in turn, could allow them to travel, attend school or return to office work. Because of the ubiquity of smartphones, it seems inevitable the devices will be used for vaccine passports. Such systems are already being explored in some places.
It’s not clear where von der Leyen — provided she is incorrect — got the bad information. Apple and Google teamed up last year to develop a contact-tracing tool to help slow the spread of coronavirus. More recently, Apple announced a strict policy for vaccination-related apps designed to be used as “health passes.”
“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.”
But beyond this there is no evidence that Apple is working on a vaccine passport app.