Digital Identity Is Going European

Margrethe Vestager, Thierry Breton

Digital identities prove that those involved in an online transaction are actually who they say they are and are therefore the foundation of any digital customer relationship. A new framework for a European digital identity (EUid) has now been proposed, aiming to be more trusted and secure.

Photo: Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the European Commission, on a trusted and secure Digital Identity for all Europeans / Credits © European Commission

Securely proving one’s identity – this is becoming increasingly necessary in the digital space, not least due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has demonstrated the need for effective and user-friendly digital services that can be easily used from home and on the move. To prevent misuse and theft, however, such digital identities must be particularly secure. Not to mention the need for them to be recognised across multiple services and countries. With its new draft for a framework for a European digital identity (EUid), the European Commission wants to address existing problems in the use of digital means of identification. Many services, such as opening a bank account or filing a tax return, shall henceforth be possible purely digitally.

“Every time an App or website asks us to create a new digital identity or to easily log on via a big platform, we have no idea what happens to our data in reality. That is why the Commission will propose a secure European e-identity. One that we trust, and that any citizen can use anywhere in Europe to do anything from paying your taxes to renting a bicycle. A technology where we can control ourselves what data is used and how”, is what European Commission president von der Leyen announced back in September 2020. Just a few months later, after numerous stakeholder discussions and consultations on the topic, the corresponding draft is on the table. The new proposal seeks to enable EU citizens to prove their identity and share documents electronically from their EUid wallets with just one click on their mobile phones.

The European Digital Identity is about enabling users, such as residents and businesses, to securely identify themselves or confirm certain personal information. It shall be used for both public and private online and offline services across the EU. Checking into a hotel, renting a car, providing proof of age, filing tax returns, opening a bank account, submitting university applications, applying for a birth certificate – the European Digital Identity is meant to make all this and much more possible. To sum it up: it will simplify our lives significantly. As a kind reminder: Today, only about 60% of the EU population in 14 Member States are able to use their national eID cross-border and only 14% of the most important public service providers across the EU allow cross-border authentication with an e-Identity system. So retrospective, this initiative was not only long overdue, but will probably also strengthen the European sense of identity and citizenship.

The big advantage of EUid wallets will be that personal data will only be shared online if the citizen actually wants to share this information. Especially with currently well-known private providers of digital identification, such as Google or Apple, the question of the trustworthiness and security of the system has been raised frequently. Finally, the new proposal would not only protect Europeans’ data but also strengthen Europe’s digital sovereignty.

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