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Gov considering revamp of NHS app for vaccine certification

Privacy campaigners say vaccine IDs only offer a "future of more controls, not more freedom"

People in face masks queuing for a venue

The NHS app could be used as a digital COVID-19 certificate that allows people to use their smartphones to prove they have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the virus. 

The UK government is thought to be considering a revamp of the NHS app, according to The Times, despite recently stating it wasn't interested in so-called 'vaccine passports'. 

The move is being considered following reports that UK businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues are looking into sourcing certification services from third-party companies. Most were said to be looking into vaccine certifications for customers, but some are thought to be looking at similar tech for their employees.

Michael Gove is said to be leading a review into a number of options, which include a revamp of the standard NHS app or the Test and Test system to prove vaccination status or confirm the result of a recent test as a way of entering a venue. Whether this also includes uploading a self-administered lateral flow test is currently unclear. 

The government's previous stance on the matter was that rapid flow tests would be a better method of ensuring people could visit venues safely. The secretary in charge of the COVID vaccine rollout was asked about businesses adopting digital certification following reports that the Cineworld chain of movie theatres was looking into it. However, Cineworld told IT Pro that it is "emphatically not the case", and added that it was "not aware" of any of its members seeing rapid testing as the way forward.

Vaccine passports were first touted as a method for airlines to welcome custom back, but the idea has spread to the high street, where shops, bars and restaurants also want to be able to check who is entering their establishments. For the campaign group, Big Brother Watch, vaccine passports used in this way represents another attack on the public's privacy.    

The group have long campaigned against forms of identification, particularly those rolled out by governments. They say their fight is about empowering citizens against overbearing authorities. 

"At this moment, the UK should be showing courage and leadership to build a freer future - to 'set the people free'," the group said in a blog post. "Instead, with vaccine IDs and more, the government is offering us a future of more controls, not more freedom."

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