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December 2021

Is it safe to send your vaccine certificate to a business?

When the traffic light system kicks in, businesses face fines of up to $15k for misusing your Covid pass.

A business asking for your vaccine pass over the internet – say, an Airbnb host demanding proof of vaccination before letting their bach – is part of the new Covid protection framework. But can you trust that the host won’t print your pass out and use it themselves?

When the traffic light system kicks in, businesses face fines of up to $15k for misusing your Covid pass.

Under the new system, many businesses and services have to ensure people entering their premises hold a valid Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate (CVC).

Usually, CVCs will be checked at the door – but what about unstaffed businesses, or services booked in advance? For example, your gym might shut off all-hours access until you send a copy of your pass.

Ministry of Health national digital services group manager Michael Dreyer said there’s nothing wrong with businesses asking.

“We are likely to see businesses verifying people’s vaccination status in advance over the internet,” Dreyer said.

“While the ministry generally doesn’t advise people to share their vaccination pass on social media or post it publicly, consenting to share it with businesses is acceptable.”

Last week, the government passed a law to combat CVCs being held and used for anything other than the intended purpose. Now, it’s specifically an offence to produce or use a fake CVC, or present someone else’s as your own.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said organisations must take note.

“Individuals who misuse the information are liable on conviction to imprisonment (up to a term of six months), or a fine of up to $12,000,” Edwards said.

“For organisations, that fine is up to $15,000.”

Edwards said individuals must be assured that organisations will keep their information secure, and only use it for the correct purpose.

“The statutory protections introduced by the Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill should go some way to providing that assurance,” he said.

“In addition, remedies under the Privacy Act may be available.”

Top tips

  • Ask for your pass to be deleted as soon as you’re verified.
  • Some businesses might store a record of your pass so you don’t have to be checked each visit, but you have to give consent.
  • Businesses are allowed to charge a fee if you don’t provide a pass, as long as they’re upfront about it. However, it’s more likely they’ll refuse to provide the service.

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