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Apple restricts 'health pass' apps to developers working with recognized health authorities

Apple on Tuesday elaborated on so-called "health pass" apps, saying the health check and building admittance apps must be developed by a company with relations to public health authorities.

Outlined in a post to Apple's developer website, the new rules seek to keep user data safe amid an ever-changing coronavirus response.

With the advent of COVID-19 vaccines, the App Store has experienced an influx of "health pass" apps that generate digital credentials for entering buildings and accessing in-person services, Apple says. These apps rely on testing and vaccination records, meaning they tap into and potentially store sensitive user data.

To ensure users within Apple's ecosystem are protected, the company is limiting "health pass" apps to developers working with entities recognized by public health authorities that are denoted as test kit manufacturers, laboratories, and healthcare providers. The restriction is also in place to verify reliable functionality, Apple says.

Beyond individual developers, the App Store accepts COVID-19 apps submitted directly by government, medical, and other credentialed institutions.

Apps and services that provide digital credentials avowing COVID-19 status or vaccine protection are seeing accelerated adoption as the pandemic rages. For example, the Clear app and its corresponding digital kiosk system is being used for screening at a variety of airports, sports stadiums and other venues in the U.S.

The new app rule follows Apple's strict guidance on coronavirus-related titles. Nearly a year ago, when the pandemic was in its early stages, the company proactively employed a policy that rejected apps not developed by recognized institutions. That decision laid the groundwork for subsequent precautions build into projects like the Apple-Google Exposure Notification API.