The New American
by Steven Neill
Americans are on the threshold of finding out how many civil liberties they are willing to surrender in the name of convenience and “for the greater good.” While the government response to COVID-19 has destroyed millions of jobs and bankrupted numerous businesses, it has also been a boon for those with an Orwellian bent.
The travel and live-entertainment industries have been two of the hardest-hit by government-imposed lockdowns. Thankfully, Big-Brother is using this “crisis” to develop software, hardware, and systems to “un-lock” these industries. Starting with the airlines, the long-awaited “COVID Passport” passed its trial run a few weeks ago on a flight from London to New Jersey. The digital health “passport” permitted passengers to provide validated COVID-19 test results to border officials upon arrival, allowing them to skip quarantines. Developed to facilitate the reopening of borders and enable travel during the “pandemic,” the digital health pass, called CommonPass, is a collaborative effort between Swiss-based nonprofit and Rockefeller Foundation-funded Commons Project and the World Economic Forum.
Leaving on United Airlines flight 15 from London’s Heathrow Airport and arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport on October 21, the volunteers shared their coronavirus test status with airline personal and border agents using the CommonPass App on their mobile phones. Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed the demonstration.
Troy Miller, CBP’s director of field operations in New York, noted that “The COVID pandemic has brought down travel and tourism across the board. CBP is happy to observe the efforts and be a part of the solution to build confidence in air travel and are encouraged by this CommonPass pilot.”
A second test was successfully conducted on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on October 6. Further flights are in the works with other routes and airlines throughout Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East.
Participating countries must then:
- Determine which coronavirus tests and lab results they feel meet their standard.
- Establish what criteria they will use to allow people to enter their country
- Designate certified labs to test the passengers
- Upload the results into the CommonPass digital network.
Once the results are in CommonPass, the program generates a print or digital QR code ready to be scanned by airline staff and border officials.
Another industry latching onto this technology is live entertainment.
Ticketmaster, the American ticket sales and distribution company, has been working on a smartphone app called the SmartEvent system that verifies the vaccination and test result status of ticket buyers within a 24- to 72-hour window.
The app will receive health information from third-party companies such as CLEAR Health Pass or IBM’s Digital Health Pass after the ticket buyer has submitted to testing by medical providers such Labcorp and the CVS Minute Clinic.
The ticket buyer will need to verify vaccination or test negative at an approved provider approximately 24 to 72 hours before the concert. The results are then sent to a health pass company that sends it to Ticketmaster. A QR code is then generated and sent to the app, giving the ticket buyer the credentials needed to attend the event.
The health pass company will monitor the requirements from various local and state agencies and send Ticketmaster a verification of eligibility, thereby complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) stipulations.
No third-party health pass companies have been approved by the FDA to provide real-time vaccination results to Ticketmaster yet, but, as noted at Billboard.com:
Ticketmaster president Mark Yovich expects the demand for digital screening services — which will be needed for airline travel, employment verification, and theme park entry — will attract a new wave of investors and entrepreneurs to fuel the growth of a new COVID-19 technology sector.
“We’re already seeing many third-party health care providers prepare to handle the vetting — whether that is getting a vaccine, taking a test, or other methods of review and approval — which could then be linked via a digital ticket, so everyone entering the event is verified…. Ticketmaster’s goal is to provide enough flexibility and options that venues and fans have multiple paths to return to events, and is working to create integrations to our API and leading digital ticketing technology as we will look to tap into the top solutions based on what’s green-lit by officials and desired by clients.”…
“In order for live events to return, technology and science are going to play huge roles in establishing integrated protocols so that fans, artists, and employees feel safe returning to venues,” says Marianne Herman, co-founder and principal reBUILD20.
If one were a “conspiracy theorist,” one could even tie the closing of the hundreds of thousands of small businesses from the shutdowns as a way to guarantee compliance with all these new “passports” rolling out to protect us from the COVID-19 boogeyman.