In summary

One of the biggest obstacles to developing a robust COVID-19 test result tracking system is consumer privacy; a solution is on the governor’s desk.

By Ian Calderon and

Assemblymember Ian Calderon, a Democrat from Whittier, represents California Assembly District 57, Assemblymember.Calderon@assembly.ca.gov. He is the Assembly Majority Leader and co-chair of the California Technology and Innovation Caucus.

Ally Medina, Special to CalMatters

Ally Medina is executive director of the Blockchain Advocacy Coalition, ally@blockadvocacy.org.

Despite California being the birthplace of innovation and technology, the state has been plagued by colossal technology system failures during the last several years.

It began with the Department of Motor Vehicles lengthy wait times for processing the Real ID, followed by the Employment Development Department’s inability to provide timely unemployment checks to millions of Californians. Additionally, Gov. Gavin Newsom inherited a flawed data tracking system, CalREDIE, which has disrupted the accuracy of tens of thousands of COVID-19 test results. 

The governor has leaned into these mishaps swiftly and pragmatically, developing strike teams and appointing experts to lead California’s technology systems into the 21st century.

A bill now sits on the governor’s desk that would provide a solution and innovative tool as California grapples with how to store and convey critical information, particularly COVID-19 testing data. We know that one of the biggest obstacles to developing a robust test result tracking system is consumer privacy. 

Consumer privacy is a core value of our state, and we can continue to lead the country during this crisis by authorizing and guiding the implementation of verifiable health credentials when it comes to communicating test result records. 

A verifiable credential works by using blockchain technology to transmit information such as a license, test result or birth certificate. No personal information is stored on the blockchain, as it is simply a means of transferring information. No third-party intermediaries, such as Google or Apple, host user information, and there is no server storing sensitive data that could be hacked. 

For COVID-19 test results, verifiable credentials would work quite simply: a California resident could get tested and request that the doctor send them a verifiable credential to confirm their result. The doctor could use a verifiable credential platform to send the result, and the resident would mostly likely receive it on their smartphone as an electronic barcode, also known as a QR code. They could then use that code to enter a salon, workplace or anywhere they wish to share their test result. 

Assembly Bill 2004 would confirm that verified credentials are an acceptable form of test results and create a working group to develop standards for their use. The independent and industry expert-led Blockchain Working Group, which was established under the Governor’s Government Operations Agency, endorsed AB 2004 as a common sense and innovative solution in protecting against forgery.

This bill presents tangible solutions for a pressing problem. In fact, this technology is already being used. California based companies like MedCreds are setting up film crews with verifiable credentials to safely re-open sets by tracking testing results of crew members. Civic Technologies has partnered with telehealth pioneer Circle Medical to provide large scale testing for employees using their cutting-edge identity verification technology.

Access to COVID-19 testing remains critical to reopening California. We remain confident in our governor’s leadership as he looks to the ingenuity of Silicon Valley to help navigate this crippling pandemic. However, we also cannot compromise our fundamental rights to privacy and our own data.

We stand with bi-partisan lawmakers who supported this legislation unanimously and urge the governor to sign AB 2004 – an opportunity for California to once again prove that technology and its uses can have real, lifesaving impacts if the necessary protections and security measures are in place. 

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