Question: I just tried to enroll in the CLEAR Health Pass app for Hawaii travel after reading the article in Saturday’s paper. After going through the enrollment process and entering my photograph and other personal information, I was asked to release all my medical records from Kaiser Permanente to CLEAR, not just the results of the vaccination. Has anyone asked the state why is it necessary to release all your medical records instead of just the results of the vaccination, which is ostensibly the purpose for the app?
Answer: We forwarded your query to the governor’s communications office, which referred it to the state Office of Enterprise Technology Services, whose chief information officer, Doug Murdock, said your question was better directed to CLEAR. Murdock said he was not familiar with every question on its app, which the state has authorized as a digital Health Pass partner for travelers to Hawaii amid COVID-19 restrictions.
We had asked CLEAR, and the biometric screening company’s emailed response was terse: “CLEAR is opt-in and only uses an individual’s COVID-related information with their consent to generate a Health Pass in order to enable safe and easy entry to Hawaii.”
We found more information about how CLEAR gathers and uses a traveler’s information from the company’s website and other sources, but before we get to that, we’ll address some questions related to your query, which also are coming in from other readers, in Hawaii and other states.
Q: Do we have to use CLEAR? Isn’t the Safe Travels app enough?
A: No and yes, respectively. The state will accept the CLEAR app to verify eligible COVID-19 vaccination or testing for domestic passengers entering Hawaii, but its use is not required. Moreover, CLEAR does not replace the state of Hawaii’s mandatory Safe Travels digital platform. Incoming passengers who choose to use the CLEAR app must also create a Safe Travels account and link their CLEAR Health Pass to it.
Q: Is that true for people vaccinated on the mainland, too? I mean, can they just use Safe Travels, or is that only for people vaccinated in Hawaii?
A: Yes, it’s true. Hawaii- bound travelers fully vaccinated anywhere in the United States may use the Safe Travels app, by filling out the application at travel.hawaii.gov and uploading their eligible vaccination document themselves. By contrast, the CLEAR app “does not support CDC card image uploads as a means of verifying vaccination records for travel to Hawaii,” and instead retrieves information from providers, according to its website, which brings us back to the original question.
Users must authorize this retrieval of records, which can be broad, depending on how the user’s electronic medical records are stored. CLEAR says on its website that “securing data and protecting privacy is job #1.”
Finally, your question, as well as the state’s response, got us wondering about the government’s oversight of apps it did not create. That led us to a recent essay published by the Brookings Institution, “Vaccine passports underscore the necessity of U.S. privacy legislation,” at 808ne.ws/vpass.
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