With the planned E-ID to the Covid 19 vaccination? A thought experiment

Would the planned state E-ID be applicable for registration for Covid 19 vaccinations? Could the extensive and time-consuming registration in the cantonal vaccination portal, e.g. the VacMe portal of the canton of Bern (be.vacme.ch), be omitted? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the planned E-ID? The E-ID, which will be put to the vote on 7 March, contains, among other things, the official name, first name and date of birth. With the use of the E-ID, one can transmit this data securely and thus no longer has to enter it oneself. This is not only practical and faster, but also prevents spelling mistakes or the mixing up of input fields. A confirmed date of birth or age is important to ensure a fair classification into the planned vaccination groups. Unlike a self-declared entry in the vaccination portal, the date of birth of an E-ID has been verified and is difficult to manipulate. The insurance number (AHV number) of the E-ID could help establish the link to the health insurance company and could save the tedious typing of the health insurance card number and a suitable selection of the health insurance company. The health insurance details are recorded in the vaccination portal for billing reasons, as they partly cover the costs.

Avoiding duplicates

By uniquely identifying the E-ID holders during the registration process in the vaccination portal, multiple registrations could simply be prevented there. However, it is then still possible to register with another cantonal vaccination register. Only if the portals were additionally given a unique number, e.g. the E-ID registration number, the AHV number or similar, would it be possible to compare the various cantonal vaccination registers and thus find vaccinators who have registered in several cantons. Unfortunately, the planned E-ID does not contain any information on the canton of residence or the address of residence in general, which would allow a restriction to one vaccination register.

Non-existent information

The planned E-ID does not contain any other government-confirmed information about the person that must be provided in the vaccination portal. I.e. all other details, such as occupation, living conditions as well as diseases, would have to be entered as they are today and cannot be further verified. This is understandable, since this information changes frequently and is not checked by government agencies. Information on health status in particular is classified as “especially worthy of protection”. On the Bern Vaccination Portal, it is pointed out that for high-risk patients, a confirmation from the doctor must be available. Technically, it is already possible today to issue verifiable electronic confirmations and to link these to electronic identities.

Lack of communication channels

E-mails are used for communication between the vaccination centre and those willing to be vaccinated, e.g. to confirm registration and the appointment. The e-mail used for this purpose can be chosen by the user and can also be used for several persons willing to be vaccinated. Today, this e-mail is checked during registration. This step would therefore still be necessary when using the planned E-ID. The provision of an e-mail address during E-ID registration is voluntary and its regular verification is left to the private identity providers. In contrast to other European countries, Switzerland does not have an e-mail system for citizens that can be used to communicate with authorities in a legally secure and binding manner. In Germany, for example, electronic identity can be combined with such an e-mail address with De-Mail. Such a secure communication channel is indispensable for an exchange of information with the authorities and would also be very useful in the case of the Covid vaccination described here. It could not only be used for scheduling appointments, but also to securely deliver the vaccination certificates electronically – similar to a registered letter.

Conclusion

In summary, the use of a government-issued E-ID in the example shown would only be useful to a limited extent. The few attributes confirmed by the state, such as age, reduce the registration effort only slightly. In addition, all the information provided must be checked again on site at the vaccination centre. The range of application and use of the planned E-ID would be considerably increased if it were possible to simply add additional confirmed personal details, such as home address, e-mail or even telephone number, from authoritative non-governmental sources (post office, mobile phone provider). Critically, the private identity providers of the Swiss E-ID could also benefit from these optional personal data and would thus not only know who is willing to be vaccinated, but could also gain insights into other areas of life.

AUTOR/AUTORIN: Annett Laube

Annett Laube heads the Institute for Data Applications and Security (IDAS) at BFH Technik & Informatik and is responsible for the focus on identity and privacy at the BFH Center Digital Society.

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