United Kingdom health ministers are weighing a plan to create “immunity passports” for workers, which would use coronavirus testing and facial recognition to certify someone’s identity and indicate whether they have already had the virus and can safely return to the workplace.
The tech firm Onfido, which specializes in identity verification through facial biometrics, has presented the British government with detailed plans for the passports, the company said. The company said it has the capacity to implement a system within months, which is said could be the “linchpin of the new normality.”
“An immunity passport is a presentable proof of immunity. It is designed to help an individual prove that they have been tested and that their test result belongs to them, but without having to share any personal information,” Onfido CEO and co-founder Husayn Kassai said in a statement.
“We’re in talks with governments and employers to make this process as fast, secure and simple as possible. Our technology is used to tie a physical human being to their digital identity using just a photo of their ID and a selfie video. Once this is bound to a test result, the digital certificate could be displayed similar to a smartphone boarding pass,” Kassai said of the company’s proposal.
The health passports could use either antigen testing, which indicates whether a person has coronavirus currently, or antibody testing, which indicates if someone has already had the virus. Onfido’s technology would be embedded in another company’s application to verify identity. A selfie photo would be matched with the person’s government ID picture and linked to a coronavirus test, the result of which their employer would be able to see when they go in to work.
The immunity passport proposal, which is still in the early stages of discussion within the UK government, has raised concerns among critics about data security and privacy.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who survived the coronavirus himself after being moved to the ICU briefly, is scheduled to address the nation on Sunday to offer details on how to “unlock the various parts of the UK economy.” Johnson said last week that it is still too early to know when social distancing measures will be able to be lifted, but he assured that plans to reopen schools and other public spaces soon are in the works.