Just as May is ending, biometrics,
like the month of June waiting in the wings, is busting out all over.
Right now, mobile hotel booking app Sidehide
and Onfido, a global identity verification and authentication company,
said that they are about to test “immunity passport” integration
for Sidehide’s hotel booking platform to verify immunity status.
AI Tests Beginning in Miami Hotels
“Sidehide users,” the company
said, “will quickly and easily verify their identity and immunity
status with hotels.” Looking down the trail a bit, we can imagine
airlines integrating the same kind of system.
The company said the system, which will
enter service soon at a few Miami hotels, will contain information about
travelers, including test results for COVID-19 antibodies, in a QR ”Quick
Response” barcode to be scanned by hotel staff upon arrival.
The Express Lane
With just a smartphone and a government-issued
ID, users are able to make a booking, verify their identity and immunity
status, and go straight to their hotel room, bypassing the check-in desk.
Sidehide hopes if the test works it might
help ease some fears and bring back some people to a badly displaced travel
Sidehide is a next generation booking platform
for digital nomads and hotels that launched in Berlin in early 2020.
Deep Pockets Backing
Onfido is a global leader in artificial
intelligence for identity verification and authentication.
Backed by TPG Growth, Crane Venture Partners,
Salesforce Ventures, and M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, Onfido has
raised $200 million in funding and powers digital access for some of the
world’s largest companies. Onfido has 400 employees spread across
There are several other companies working
on various systems to scan individuals from a distance, assessing your
health while you’re attempting to travel on a plane or enter a hotel
Some Questions Raised
This new wrinkle to our lives, called “immunity
passports,” adds not only new language to our vocabulary, it also
The number one question is: what if you
have not been able to get screened for COVID-19?
There are 350 million people in the U.S.
and to date only around 20 million have been screened.
Does that mean unscreened people will be
categorized as “second class” or worse, shunned altogether?
In any case, the intrusiveness of the new
technologies could make the round of checks and double checks implemented
during the post-911 era “look like a walk in the park,” according
to one source.
Some Other Voices
Medical professionals informed FlyingTypers
that patients who contracted and have recovered from COVID-19 are operating
in a veil of uncertainty about a possible reprise of the virus.
“Some of our patients say that they
feel like lepers,” said a healthcare worker from Downstate Hospital
in Brooklyn, New York.
“People are unsure of their future,
although free of the COVID-19 at this point, nobody really knows for sure
if the disease will regenerate itself.”
The testing is about measuring COVID-19
Out of Body Antibodies Challenge
One possible worry is that people without
antibodies could be shut out from the activities of everyday life, creating
a divided landscape of antibody haves and have-nots.
“The reality is that access to society
with [this kind of] certification will likely reflect existing systemic
biases, corruption, and discrimination in the system,” Alexandra
Phelan, an assistant professor in infectious diseases and law at Georgetown
University, told Sue Halpern in a story that appeared in The New Yorker.
So, will immunity passports raise privacy
concerns? One possible rub is some insurance policy rates might go up.
Then there is the fear factor and knee-jerk
reactions to the unknown.
The U.S. reportedly is already talking about
disqualifying anyone who has had COVID-19 from serving in the military.
It Happens Every Time
The New York Times recently listed
some other jarring cases of exemptions being taken by everyday people:
“The veterinarian who refused to treat
a recovered woman’s dog. The laundromat worker who jumped at seeing
an elected official whose illness had been reported on the local news.
The gardener who would not trim the hedges outside a recovered man’s
home. The neighbor who dropped off soup, and said not to bother returning
“And the sick teenager whose solace
during his long illness was the thought of fishing with friends, only
to have them ghost him when he recovered,” wrote The Times.
A Way to Bypass Future Lockdowns?
“Darpa,” The New Yorker
writes, “the research arm of the Defense Department, is pursuing
a different path.
“The scientists are developing a method
of testing for certain host signatures of gene expression caused by the
virus—what is known as epigenetics—to detect the presence
of COVID-19 well before there are symptoms.
“If COVID-19 antibodies do not turn
out to be protective, or if the protection they offer is limited, or if
societies reject immunity-passport schemes, frequent epigenetic tests
may be a way to bypass large-scale lockdowns.”
“We know there’s a cure out
there and we know there’s a diagnostic tool out there,” Darpa
“We know there’s a vaccine out
“You just have to do thorough, rigorous
scientific work and only believe your data. “Don’t believe
The Push Back
People seem willing to talk about biometrics
but would rather not go on the record.
“Personally,” a source assures,
“I don’t mind sharing key personal data if it helps to expedite
“I am already doing that as a registered
TSA Pre-check and Global Entry user. The key being that it is my choice
to do so.
“I would frown upon being forced to
do so, as I am sure many other Americans would.”
What About Accuracy?
“What about the reliability of such
a test?” another source asked.
“If it is known 100% that (1) the
tests are accurate and (2) if you test positive for COVID-19 antibodies,
it is guaranteed that you are not able to contract and carry COVID again,
I think such a passport makes sense.
“It makes sense as long as it is an
optional choice and not being forced on everyone.
“Unfortunately, I don’t believe
we are there yet though, as I have heard of numerous cases that prove
the tests to be unreliable.”
Be Aware & Hold the Mayo
Here is a recent report
that seems to elevate that thinking:
What About the COVID-19 Double Dip?
We hear reports that people can contract
the virus multiple times.
Here, a CDC report could raise apprehension
of the immunity passport approach at this point in time.
After reading this, another source raised
“What use is the passport if it only
points to the fact that you have antibodies, but you could still potentially
contract the virus again?”
CDC Reports Leave Door Open
“As of yet,” CDC said, “we
are unsure of the nature of human immunity to Coronavirus. “A recently
published study in monkeys has demonstrated that they produce antibodies
to the virus, that protected them from a second infection a month later.
“Over the coming weeks, researchers
will be studying the antibody levels in the blood of people who have had
COVID-19 to understand how strong their immunity is and how long it lasts.
“If the Coronavirus is like the flu,
we should expect to have some protection that will last months, until
the strains circulating change substantially.”
In Summary May 27, 2020
Clearly it is still early days and we have
a long way to go before all the COVID-19 facts are gathered and we have
clear direction from the experts as to what actually works, what doesn’t,
and what the associated risks are if there are grey areas.
This way we can make informed decisions.
Right now, consensus of opinion seems to be that it remains a challenge
to make informed decisions, especially when the experts keep changing
their positions as facts become known.