Your Android phone will soon have the ability to store COVID-19 vaccination and testing information through Google Pay’s Passes API. Google says that all data is stored locally for security, and that you don’t need the Google Pay app to access this feature. It will begin rolling out in the U.S. over the coming weeks before going global.
Like most digital vaccination cards, Passes API hides much of your personal data behind a scannable QR code. This prevents people from seeing your personal data on-screen yet provides an easy way for businesses or governments to verify your vaccination or testing status.
Interestingly, Google’s Passes API does not store vaccine data in the cloud. It’s stored locally on your device, and requires that your phone has a PIN or password lock in place. You can access the vaccine information from your lockscreen, but you need to unlock your phone first. Google says that this COVID Card feature works offline and doesn’t require the Google Pay app—it only requires that your device runs Android 5 or later and is Play Protect certified.
Just to clarify, the Passes API doesn’t turn your paper COVID-19 vaccination card into a digital record (otherwise, anyone could fabricate “proof” of vaccination or testing). Healthcare providers need to support the Passes API and integrate it with their existing digital records systems. Once that’s done, they can send you your vaccination or testing info, which you can then move into Google Pay (or the standalone Passes API if you don’t want to use Pay).
Most healthcare providers in the U.S. are sticking to paper vaccine cards, though New York and Hawaii use apps to verify vaccination or testing status at some venues and events. And at the time of writing, the White House has no plans for a federal vaccine passport mandate—it wants states and the private sector to decide how things play out.
Still, the landscape may change as businesses (especially airlines) consider enforcing vaccine requirements to protect the health of customers and employees. If such requirements become commonplace, digital vaccine and testing records could become the norm, even without a government mandate.