Gov’t app feature making vaccination information accessible stirs debate on privacy

The “Sanadjo” application recently added a new service, which allows people to look up and know who has been vaccinated and who has not. (Photo: Freepik)
The “Sanadjo” application recently added a new service, which allows people to look up and know who has been vaccinated and who has not. (Photo: Freepik)
AMMAN — The recent release of a new feature to a government app that allows the public to access vaccination information of other people has raised privacy concerns.اضافة اعلان

The “Sanadjo” application recently added a new service, which allows people to look up and know who has been vaccinated and who has not.

The new service, which appears on the main interface of the application, shows a green sign if a person has received the first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A red sign appears if a person has only received one dose or no dose at all.

The application requires users to provide a national number, date of birth, or scan of a person’s ID to find out someone’s vaccination status, according to Al-Ghad.

Some argue that this measure is necessary to facilitate the enforcement of defense orders that require institutions to verify that their employees and customers are vaccinated.

“There must be ways to ensure that the privacy of individuals is not infringed, and of course, the information that he has received the vaccine or not is a personal information, and knowing it without the owner’s permission is considered an infringement on his privacy according to global standards of privacy," Issa Mahasneh, an expert in security and digital privacy, told Jordan News.

However, the expert noted the requirement of the ID number of the other person and their date of birth. “We assume that this information is known only to its owner.”

Mahasneh added “What the government has done is to find a middle ground in order to be able to facilitate some things for the workers in the institutions and the owners of the institutions. Some may think that accessing such information is difficult, as many people think that the ID number is confidential information, while in fact; obtaining it is not against the law, so using it to find out about someone else's health seems a bit sensitive."

“We should not neglect the fact that the information about receiving the vaccine falls within the health information of the individual, which is considered personal, and therefore the consent of the person concerned is required in order for this information to be shared.”

“I personally do not find that there is a need for such a step by the government. Suppose that the owner of the institution wants to make sure that their employee has received the vaccine — they can simply ask them to show the vaccination certificate. Therefore, there is an optional disclosure from the data owner based on the contractual terms with the employer, so that both parties agree to such a step, and neither of them infringes on the privacy of the other without his knowledge."

Mahasneh also noted that the app, Sanad, displays the vaccination certificate from the website, which is the same website that citizens use to make an appointment to receive the vaccine, and the website does not mention that this information can be used, or shown to someone else, “so its use by Sanad application does not follow the privacy terms.”

He concluded, "It is necessary to find a way within the application to ensure that the data is not displayed until after the consent of the data owner, as the implementation of the defense order in this way will be safer."

For Haitham Abu Nima, a citizen, this particular piece of information “is not very personal.”

"I find it my right to know that I am protected from infection the COVID-19 virus while dealing with other people; this is what is called public safety," Abu Nima told Jordan News.

Despite several attempts by Jordan News to contact the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship regarding the issue, they were not available for comment.