What is digital identification?
Identification allows us to prove who we are. That is why we have passports and identity cards in our daily lives. Digital identification helps us save time and simplify interactions. Various private and public providers are currently offering digital identification means, allowing users to access different public services online or to make use of online banking, for example. Digital identities offer varying degrees of trustworthiness and security. Big platforms allow their users to log in to various services online, from shopping to reading news but these log-ins are not giving users full control on what data they share to identify themselves with online services.
What is the European Digital Identity Wallet?
Many citizens are already using digital wallets on their smartphones to store their boarding passes when they travel or to keep their virtual bank cards for convenient payment. Under the new rules, European Digital Identity Wallets will be available to everyone. European Digital Identity Wallets are personal digital wallets allowing citizens to digitally identify themselves, store and manage identity data and official documents in electronic format. These may include a driving licence, medical prescriptions or education qualifications. With the wallet, citizens will be able to prove their identity where necessary to access services online, to share digital documents, or simply to prove a specific personal attribute, such as age, without revealing their identity or other personal details. Citizens will at all times have full control of the data they share.
What will change for Europeans?
The main novel element offered by the new rules is that everyone will have a right to have a European Digital Identity Wallet which is accepted in all Member States. But at the same time, there will be no obligation. Users will be able to control what personal data they want to share with online services. While public services and certain private services will be obliged to recognize the European Digital Identity, its security features make it attractive for all private service providers to recognize it for services that require strong authentication, creating new business opportunities.
What can I do with the new European Digital Identity wallet?
You will be able to use it to access both public and private online services in the EU, in particular those requiring strong user authentication. Examples of these could be accessing a bank account or applying for a loan, submitting tax declarations, enrolling in a university in your home country or abroad and many other things that you do with your normal means of identification.
For what purpose can I use my European Digital Identity Wallet?
Here are a few examples of how the European Digital Identity Wallet could be used once in place:
Use the Digital Identity Wallet:
Peter has installed a personal digital wallet on his mobile phone. It has been provided by his home country, ensuring that the wallet has been issued to him personally. Peter’s digital wallet allows him to download, store and use his basic personal data, a driving licence, a diploma, and a bank card he used to carry around as physical cards in his physical wallet.
Prove your age:
Myra is in the queue to enter a nightclub and the security guard at the door asks for her ID. Instead of showing her physical ID card, she uses her European Digital Identity Wallet. The security guard can verify she is over the legal age as Myra can choose to use her digital identity wallet to confirm her age without showing any other personal data.
Renting a car at an airport:
Sarah used to queue at the rent-a-car counter of the airport. She would have to wait for the car rental company to scan a copy of the passport or identity card, the driving licence, the credit card and sign all documents. With the digital identity this could be done without having to wait in the queue, even beforehand. Sarah will be able to head to the car park, pick up the car, and drive to her hotel. The car rental company may either give her the key in the parking or else enable the car to be started via the mobile phone.
Identify to an online service to prove who you are:
Kurt has moved to a new country for work. He needs to register as a resident in the new country and he can use his European Digital Identity Wallet for this purpose. Kurt can also use his wallet to prove his identity for various online services in his new country of residence, such as to open a bank account, buy a SIM card for his mobile phone or subscribe to a public transport pass.
What is the added value compared to the current system?
The European Digital Identity wallets will be built on the basis of trusted digital identities provided by Member States, improving their effectiveness, extending their benefits to the private sector and offering personal digital wallets that are safe, free, convenient to use, and protect personal data.
For this initiative, the Commission builds on the existing cross-border legal framework for trusted digital identities, the Europeans electronic identification and trust services initiative (eIDAS Regulation).
Adopted in 2014, it provides the basis for cross-border electronic identification, authentication and website certification within the EU. However, it does not contain any obligation for Member States to provide their citizens and businesses with a digital identification system enabling secure access to public services or to ensure their use across EU borders. Nor does it contain provisions regarding use of such identification for private services, or with mobile devices. This leads to discrepancies between countries.
Some countries offer identification system to their citizens while other do not and, when they do, not all these systems can be used cross-border. Today, 19 notified eID schemes are used by 14 Member States, covering almost 60 per cent of the EU-27 population but take-up is low, their use is cumbersome and business cases are limited.
The coronavirus pandemic and the shift towards the use of digital services has shown that this has limitations that need to be addressed urgently.
What happens to my existing eID? Do I need to go through another registration process?
No. The European Digital Identity wallets will build on national systems that already exist in some Member States. Today, not every person living in the EU has access to a means of digital identification.
How can I obtain a European Digital Identity Wallet?
Member States will offer the wallet to their citizens and residents at the national level. Everyone will be able to download, install and use the European Digital Identity Wallet on their personal smartphone or device.
How will security, privacy and personal data protection be ensured?
The proposal provides for a high level of security. The Commission will propose and agree with Member States on standards, technical specifications and operational aspects to ensure the Member States’ Digital Identity Wallets have the highest security levels. Member States will certify their wallets to ensure they comply with these requirements. Any personal data will be shared online only if the citizen chooses to share that information.
Will the Commission provide for a unique European Digital Identity to replace national digital identities?
No. That is not the aim of the regulation. Digital identities will continue to be provided by Member States. The European Digital Identity framework builds on this basis, and extends the functionalities and usability of national eIDs by means of a personal digital wallet.
How will you ensure the systems are interoperable, that they work across different Member States?
The Commission will propose and agree with Member States standards, technical specifications and operational aspects through an implementing act.
When can I use this personal digital wallet?
Member States should issue the new European Digital Identity Wallets one year after entry into force of this new Regulation.
What is the purpose of the common Toolbox proposed together with the European Digital Identity Framework?
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for effective and user-friendly digital services across the EU. There is no time to lose. It is essential that Member States start working with the Commission and the private sector immediately to prepare the implementation of the European Digital Identity framework. Close cooperation will be organised from day one of the adoption of the proposal by the Commission to discuss the technical implementation and identify common standards.
What is the timeline to develop, adopt and implement the toolbox?
Work will start immediately to agree on the way forward with Member States. The aim is that by September 2022, Member States, in close cooperation with the Commission, agree on the Toolbox to implement the European Digital Identity Framework and that the Commission publishes the Toolbox in October 2022. Once the technical framework has been agreed, it can be tested in pilot projects.