How the new EU digital ID 'wallet' will work

The European Commission announced yesterday its plans to create an electronic digital identity wallet that will be valid throughout Europe. The application will allow European citizens to safely store their electronic ID and many other documents, such as a driving license, medical prescriptions, bank cards or degrees, so that they serve as proof of identity and can easily and safely access public and private services through their mobile phones. It will be like carrying a physical wallet with all the documentation, but on your mobile. But what has led the EU to launch this initiative when there are already other wallet digital available? What use are we going to be able to give it? When can it be used? Will its use be mandatory?

Why is the EU creating this new digital identity?

He wants any European citizen to be able to do in the 27 Member States what he does in his own country, without additional costs and without obstacles. The digital wallet will allow them, among other things, to rent a flat or a car, open a bank account, apply for a loan, file a tax return, register in a hotel or enroll in a university. The Commission is aware that there are already other wallets such as those offered, for example, by Apple or Google on their mobiles, but they ensure that they do not give users full control of the data they share to identify themselves before online services. For this reason, behind the Commission’s move there is also a clear intention to counteract the growing popularity of these other digital wallets from US companies and the privacy and data protection concerns related to them.

And how does the EU respond to this challenge?

Returning control over their data to citizens, as explained yesterday by the Community Executive. The Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, pointed out that the European application “will have higher levels of security than what we find today in the market and what the platforms propose [refiriéndose a Google, Facebook y Apple]. As he added, the identification on the platforms has become a mandatory invoice to access some of their services, and they take advantage of it to collect data and monetize it against our will ”. With the European digital portfolio, Margrethe Vestager remarked, “we will be able to decide how much of our information we want to share, with whom and for what”.

And it is that the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said it a few days ago: “No one should be forced to provide more data than is necessary for the purpose in question. To book a hotel room online, no one needs to know where I am from and who my friends are ”. For this reason, he defended, with the European digital portfolio “we are offering an alternative to the models of the large online platforms”.

What specific things can I use it for?

It can be used, for example, to demonstrate a specific personal attribute, such as age, to be able to use an online service that requires being over X years old or to enter a nightclub, and all without revealing more personal data. It will also be practical to rent a car at an airport, avoiding queues and having to wait for the company to scan a copy of the ID or passport or driving license; or to register as a resident, buy a SIM card for a mobile phone, open a bank account or subscribe to a public transport card if someone moves to a new country to work.

What changes for European citizens?

The new regulatory framework that the EU presented on Thursday to introduce the digital wallet establishes that all citizens will have the right to have a European digital identity that is accepted in all Member States. But, at the same time, there will be no obligation to use it. Of course, public bodies will be obliged to accept it to carry out procedures such as submitting the income statement or enrolling in any European university. And not only them.

So will some large private digital platforms, if requested by users. Specifically, those with more than 45 million users (10% of the EU population) and in those sectors that require a high level of authentication for their users, including transport, energy, banking and financial services, security social, health or telecommunications, according to Vestager. Brussels is confident, however, that other companies will want to use it because of the supposedly high level of security it will offer. And, because, as Breton said, “all companies will gain from this digital identity because they will be able to offer many new services”.

How and when can I get one of these wallets?

Member States will offer it to their citizens and residents at national level. Anyone can download, install and use it on their smartphone or personal device. The digital identification will be issued by the States or by private entities authorized by the Governments. As for when, there is still no clear timetable because it must be approved by the Member States and the European Parliament. Breton limited himself to saying that they trust that the initiative will see the light “as soon as possible” and Vestager recalled that there are already 14 countries, including Spain, that issue identity documents in digital format, which will speed up the transition.

The new regulatory framework forces the rest of the countries to follow the steps, since the European digital identity will be of mandatory adoption and will guarantee interoperability between the 27. “Offering a digital solution for identification is no longer an option but an obligation for Member States. And it is also a right for citizens to use it if they want, “added Vestager, who stressed that the new digital wallet must be” mutually recognized in all Member States and be as valid as a paper document is throughout the EU. “

Does it replace the national ‘DNI’?

No, it will not replace the current national identity documents issued by the different States. Its objective is to expand functionalities. In fact, the Commission has set itself that by 2030, all key public services are available online, and all citizens have access to their electronic health records. And he estimates that by then, 80% of citizens will use an electronic identification solution.

And how will the portfolio work?

The Commission did not provide information on this, because the technical details have yet to be decided, but it is expected to work like mobile applications that already offer wallets to digitally store airline tickets or event tickets, or those that allow you to pay with the mobile as if it were the credit card. And that can be opened through the fingerprint or the scan of the retina, among other methods.

The Commission did say that it will work with Member States and the private sector on technical issues. He also indicated that he invites the 27 to create a common set of tools by September 2022, which should include architecture and technical standards, as well as best practice guidelines. Brussels hopes that starting in the autumn of next year, pilot projects can begin. The Commission bases this initiative on the current cross-border legal framework for trusted digital identities, the Electronic Identification Regulation (elDAS) adopted in 2014.

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