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EC launches digital identity framework

The European digital identity will be available to citizens, residents and businesses across the EU, and member states will offer digital identity wallets on a national level

The European Commission (EC) has set out plans for a European digital identity, which will be available and offered on a national level in all member states.

The framework on a European digital identity comes after the EC launched a consultation in July 2020 on plans to revise the electronic identification, authentication and trust services (eIDAS) regulation.

The consultation has now resulted in a new digital identity framework for the EU, which will allow all citizens to prove their identity, share electronic documents and access online services from their smartphone through a digital identity wallet.

The EC is planning to begin work immediately to put this into legislation and agree how to implement this with member states. The EC aims to have created a common toolbox together with the European Digital Identity Framework by October 2022, which will then be piloted before rolled out to countries across Europe.

Margrethe Vestager, EC executive vice-president said that the European digital identity will enable citizens in any member state to do “as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles”.

“Be that renting a flat or opening a bank account outside of our home country, and do this in a way that is secure and transparent,” she said.

“So that we will decide how much information we wish to share about ourselves, with whom and for what purpose. This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European.”

Digital wallets

Under the new framework, all member states will offer citizens and businesses digital wallets, much like people already use for boarding passes and mobile payments, where they can link their national digital identities with other means of proving who they are, such as driving licences, bank accounts or diplomas.

The digital wallet can be used to access both private and public online services, and large platforms will be mandated to accept digital identity as proof. This includes using the wallet to prove your age at a nightclub, renting a car and opening a bank account in any member state, even if it is not one you are a citizen of.

The wallets can be supplied by either a private company or public authorities, as long as they’re recognised by a member state.

The framework also aims to give citizens control of their own data, and they themselves will be able to choose which data to share with third parties and keep track of where the information has been shared.

EC internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said that EU citizens not only expect a high level of security “but also convenience whether they are dealing with national administrations such as to submit a tax return or to enrol at a European university where they need official identification”.

“The European Digital Identity wallets offer a new possibility for them to store and use data for all sorts of services, from checking in at the airport to renting a car. It is about giving a choice to consumers, a European choice,” he said.

“Our European companies, large and small, will also benefit from this digital identity, they will be able to offer a wide range of new services since the proposal offers a solution for secure and trusted identification services.”

Read more about digital identity

  • The latest government proposals to regulate the digital identity sector continue to misunderstand how such a market works – a more API-based approach is needed to deliver the clear benefits of online ID.
  • The government’s draft framework, which aims to set out rules for the use of digital identities, will be tested with industries, services, users and organisations ahead of a final version being published.
  • Digital Identity Scotland’s 10-week test of its digital identity prototype finds that users understand the concept of two-factor authentication and using the same credentials across services.

In 2018, the EC’s eIDAS regulation came into force. It is aimed at promoting and improving trust, security and convenience online through a single set of rules on electronic identification and trust services, including electronic signatures, seals, time stamping, delivery services and website authentication.

This means companies and individuals can use their own national e-identities (eIDs) when they do business or reside in another EU country to support efforts to enable a digital single market in Europe.

Several countries in Europe already have digital identity solutions in place, and those citizens already using digital identity services will not need to go through another registration process, but the new system will build on national systems already in place.

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