Google has updated the Passes API to enable a secure way of storing your COVID-19 vaccination card and/or testing status on your Android smartphone, marking yet another way that Google has tried to help authorities combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Passes API lets third-party developers create boarding passes, loyalty cards, digital tickets, etc. that the user can save to Google Pay for easy access. Thanks to the Passes API, it’s possible to aggregate your boarding passes and loyalty cards in the Google Pay app, making it quick and easy to board a flight or keep up with your subscriptions. Now, the Passes API has been updated so developers from healthcare organizations, government agencies, or organizations authorized by public health authorities can integrate a user’s digital COVID-19 vaccine card/testing information into Google Pay. The digital COVID-19 vaccination card or test report can then be accessed from the owner’s smartphone and shown to relevant personnel who may need to see it.
Anyone with a device running Android 5 or higher — so long as their device is Google Play certified — can digitally store their COVID-19 vaccination info or testing status on their device. Google said in its blog post that this feature will roll out in the United States first followed by other countries.
To ensure that user’s private medical information isn’t leaked, Google says the API stores a digital certificate on the smartphone that is not uploaded to the cloud. Once stored on-device, the card can be accessed from the owner’s home screen, even when offline or with a weak Internet connection. The user can store it on multiple devices, though they’ll need to manually do so, as it is not stored in the cloud on Google’s services. Information on the card is not shared with Google and will not be used for advertisements or other services. Finally, a lock screen is required for storing a COVID-19 card on-device, in order to protect the user’s information. Even accessing the card will require the saved password, pin, or biometric method used on the device.
Qualified providers can let Google know of their interest here. Users do not need to actually install the Google Pay app to access their COVID-19 vaccination or test cards, since the Passes API and addition/retrieval of cards are all handled through Google Play Services which comes preinstalled on all phones with Google Mobile Services.