MIT Technology Review

When we tested New York’s Excelsior Pass, we found privacy concerns, technical glitches, and questions over who it’s really for.

On June 20, about 20,000 fans gathered at Madison Square Garden in New York City for a Foo Fighters concert. The venue was at full capacity for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but it wasn’t a full return to normalcy: To get in, ticket holders needed to show proof that they’d been vaccinated—in the form of either a paper card or the state’s Excelsior Pass, a much-debated smartphone app that launched earlier this year. 

The pass now has about 2 million downloads, which represents just 10% of fully vaccinated New Yorkers. Implementation has been rocky—marked by persistent glitches, privacy concerns, and outrage over the state government’s failure to prioritize the material needs of working-class communities of color—and businesses that require vaccination proof are already seeing backlash. Despite these concerns, though, it’s becoming more commonplace across the city to require such proof, and other states have expressed interest in launching similar passes. (You can read more about those with our vaccine passport tracker.)


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