Facial recognition has been added as a way of logging in to an NHS app that lets people order prescriptions, book appointments and find healthcare data.
Initially, it will allow faster access to the services on the app, which is separate from the contact-tracing one, but its developers say it could also be used for COVID-19 "immunity passports".
The NHS facial-recognition system, built by iProov and available for both Android devices and iOS, requires users to submit a photo of themselves from an official document such as their passport or driving license. They then scan their face using their phone and, following a short sequence of flashing colours, their identification will be verified and they will have access to all the services on the NHS app.
Immunity passports need to link a person's identity to their coronavirus test results, so would require a robust way of allowing people to verify themselves. Those deemed clear of the virus could then prove their status via a code generated by an app.
However, the idea is controversial, not least because there is no hard scientific evidence that having had the coronavirus provides people with long-lasting immunity.
The World Health Organization has warned countries against implementing such passports, saying: "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection."
Dr Tom Fisher, a senior researcher at Privacy International, said the implementation of such measures needed to be "necessary, proportionate and based on the epidemiological evidence".
"For the moment, immunity passports do not meet this test," he said. "We must be concerned about the broad societal impact of such immunity passports. They are essentially about limiting the rights of those who are not deemed to be immune. This is a route to exclusion and discrimination."
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Source: BBC News, 27 May 2020