Illinois’ ‘Vax Verify’ program ‘worst yet,’ national group says

A digital civil rights group says Illinois’ “Vax Verify” program is a step in the wrong direction, and the worst they’ve seen yet.

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced the new digital COVID-19 vaccine certificate Wednesday.

“As more businesses, events, organizations, and others require proof of vaccination, Illinois residents will be able to confirm using Vax Verify that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement announcing the program. “With the current surge in cases, more people are making the decision to get a COVID-19 vaccine and this new tool will aid residents in confirming their vaccination where needed.”

Residents accessing the program must verify their information through consumer credit rating firm Experian and could use it for certain areas of concerts at the Illinois State Fair as early as Thursday.

Unveiling the butter cow Wednesday in Springfield, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it will be secure, despite recent cyber attacks on other state agencies.

“So we’ve got a significant effort to make sure the information is secure and that our computers across the state are secure,” Pritzker said.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Director of Engineering Alexis Hancock reviews such systems from around the country and said Illinois’ program requiring people to verify their information through credit tracking firm Experian is severely flawed.

“This system is horrible in Illinois,” Hancock said. “Using Experian is definitely one of the worst ones I’ve seen yet.”

Hancock raised concerns about what that means for people who are not vaccinated, or may even be undocumented residents with little to no trackable credit history, among other issues.

“If you have frozen your credit for whatever reason, you have to unfreeze your credit with Experian in order to actually access a vaccination record from this Vax Verify system.”

Then there’s what she called “scope creep,” and how consumers could be impacted without proper protection to prevent private businesses from tracking citizens.

“You don’t have to do that everyday, right, you don’t have to swoop out your vaccination records everyday and that frequency and that scope can become an issue when companies who are holding this information and databases are holding this information aren’t necessarily being held accountable to the stricter standard of how long they should log information, if they should log information at all.”

A spokesperson for the ACLU of Illinois said showing vaccine proof is good for public health and expects such measures would withstand legal challenges.