The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is launching a global directory of public keys required for authentication of health credentials.

The directory – called the Health Master List (HML) – will make a significant contribution to the global recognition and verification (interoperability) of government issued health credentials.

A public key enables third parties to verify that a QR code displayed on a health certificate is authentic and valid. The HML is a compilation of public key certificates signed by ICAO and regularly updated as more health proofs are issued and new public keys are required. Its implementation will ease the global recognition of health credentials outside of the jurisdiction in which they were issued.

“For international travel today, it is critical that Covid-19 health passes can be efficiently verified outside of their country of issuance. While the keys for verification are available individually, the creation of a directory will cut complexity, simplify operations and improve trust in the verification process. We encourage all states to submit their public health keys to the HML,” said Willie Walsh, International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general.

The sharing of public keys used to perform this verification does not involve any exchange of or access to personal information.

The HML is available on the ICAO website. Through a pilot project associated with the HML, private sector providers of solutions for governments to verify health credentials will also be able to access these keys. This will help facilitate the broadest coverage of health certificates in their offerings as international travel continues to ramp-up. IATA will participate in this pilot program.

The air transport industry’s interest in this type of directory goes beyond the Covid-19 crisis.

“Covid-19 Health Certificates must be removed as we progress towards overall travel normalisation and industry recovery. But we must retain and build on the operational experience of verifying certificates globally. This will help to drive progress for contactless verification of traveller’s identities,” said Walsh.

IATA promotes the implementation of the One ID use for digital identity management and biometric technologies to streamline travel by eliminating repetitive checks of paper documents. The contactless checking of travel health credentials is advancing the experience needed to operationalize One ID. The challenge is the same: universal recognition of verified digital credentials irrespective of the jurisdiction in which they were issued, or the standard used.

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