En-route to European digital identity: what does the new deal bring to the table?
The idea of a unified digital ID solution - the European digital identity wallet - has been around since 2021. Even so, every approach to unlock free and secure wallets and electronic signatures to all EU citizens, residents and businesses has been clouded by weighty concerns and legal obstacles. Friction in cross-border transactions and data security issues stand at the top of this list, highlighting an undeniable need for a unified and consistent approach.
At the end of June, EU regulatory authorities brought this ambitious concept forward again, announcing a provisional political agreement on the core elements of a new framework for a European digital identity (eID) between the Council presidency and the European Parliament. Evaluating this agreement from a practical standpoint, our CPO Tomas Zuoza says that, although this is certainly a step forward, a lot of critical questions remain unanswered.
“I welcome the revised eIDAS and associated changes. They further promote the EU as a single market, and for that identity proofing at a high level is a must, so it is relieving to see that this proposal has stayed in the provisional agreement. That said, I must question the rather ambitious target of providing a secure and effective digital solution to at least 80% of EU citizens by 2030. The ability to reach it strongly corresponds with the implementation - and especially the user experience - of eIDs and EUDI Wallets. The reality is that, today, a large part of citizens own an eID but have no idea how (or where) to use it. Changing that is a complex yet necessary task.
“Another element of a unified identity framework is reliable cross-border identity matching. Are we going to have EU Personal Numbers that are unique to each person? Without a doubt, it would elevate the user experience in many cases, like travel or signature activation. Even so, international support for this system must be consistent, as resistance from individual countries will compromise the overall benefit.
“Finally, offering “free of charge” qualified electronic signatures in EUDI Wallets could disrupt the QTSP market by transferring the cost of signatures onto the requesting party. In that case, providers would have to reconsider certificate subscription models as a whole,” Tomas says.
Further noting the effect that proposed changes would have on QTSPs, Tomas also highlights a crucial need to welcome regulatory changes in a controlled, secure and user-friendly manner. According to him, the transition towards EUDI wallets will help to weed out providers that are not able to ensure strong identity proofing.
The newly announced deal also raises a number of questions to our CEO Philip Hallenborg. “We need to reconsider and rebuild the concepts of free wallets and electronic signatures from the ground up. What do they really mean? It may be the case that the state has to provide IDs, but can we also oblige the state to provide, for example, qualified signatures? Or will the state procure these for their citizens?” he asks.
Cross-border access to public services by means of a personal digital wallet on a mobile phone would massively benefit end users and service providers alike. But in order for this new system to be future-proof, a strong legal foundation is a must. The newly announced provisional political agreement is a step in the right direction, and successful implementation of eID will ultimately open doors for further improvements.
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