June 22, 2021

New York vaccine passport program costs much higher than announced, according to reports

2 min read

The cost of New York’s vaccine passport program appears to go far beyond the $2.5 million state officials announced in March, according to published reports.

Documents obtained by the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, also known as S.T.O.P., show the price tag of the contact with IBM could get close to $17 million in the next three years, The New York Times reported.

That’s because the state must also pay between $7.2 million and $12.3 million in licensing fees and $2.2 million in implementation costs for the project dubbed Excelsior Pass. New York is the first state to create a vaccine pass app.

“Governor [Andrew] Cuomo should have been open with the public from the start about the cost of this app,” said Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of S.T.O.P. “We should all be concerned that so much money is being gambled on this unproven … technology.”

A second part of the contract alludes to a cost for Phase 2, but no details on the costs are included.

“How can we have an honest debate about the costs and benefits of this technology if we are only being given part of the story?” Cahn asked.

IBM officials said when announcing the vaccine passport that secure technologies like blockchain would be used.

“No private health data is stored or tracked within the apps,” said Steve LaFleche, General Manager, for IBM Public and Federal Markets. “Excelsior Pass can be used to voluntarily show a QR code as proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test result via a digital smartphone wallet or printed credential without sharing underlying personal health details.”

Cahn said details are not included in the contract.

“This contract is alarming, not just because of what it tells us, but because of what it leaves out,” Cahn said. “From the beginning, we’ve called on IBM to explain how they are deploying blockchain. After seeing this contract, we have to ask if Excelsior Pass’s ‘blockchain’ is truly security or just a sales pitch.”

Cuomo touted Excelsior Pass as a tool in the state’s plan to reopen safely when announcing the program in March. So far an estimated 2 million New York residents have downloaded the pass.

The governor encouraged executives at office buildings to adopt a protocol announced by the Empire State Building that waives temperature checks to those who have the pass.

Privacy groups have raised concerns about vaccine passports, saying they could be used by law enforcement groups in investigations. A bill that would limit the use of information on the Excelsior Pass is currently making its way through the New York Legislature.

This article was originally posted on New York vaccine passport program costs much higher than announced, according to reports

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