Last week, the European Commission announced its plans for (a framework for) Digital Identity Wallets for everyone in the European Union (EU). This initiative has the potential to be a major step forward in terms of data sovereignty since it will give citizens and businesses more control over the data they share, but it requires further refinement to really make a difference.
The EU Digital Identity Wallet, which will be offered by Member States to their citizens at national level, will allow Europeans to store identity-related data and official documents – such as driving licences, COVID-19 vaccination details and educational qualifications – in electronic format. These documents can then be used as digital proof of identity across the European Union to enable people to access public and private services in all kinds of situations, ranging from paying taxes to renting a car. The EU Digital Identity Wallet will enable people to choose which aspects of their identity they share with third parties, and to keep track of what is shared with whom. In other words, it will put them in control of their data.
The European Commission, Member States and private sector are said to be collaborating closely on the development of the necessary common standards for the EU Digital Identity Wallet. The aim is to test these standards in pilot projects from October 2022 onwards. This harmonised approach should avoid further fragmentation and divergent national solutions and maximise the applicability and interoperability of the EU Digital Identity Wallet throughout the European Union.
The European Commission’s proposal to create a unified, trusted and secure European electronic identity (eID) looks very ambitious, in terms of both its requirements related to privacy, security and usability and its timelines. The ambition to give people and businesses control over their data is a very worthy one and would represent a major step forward. However, by making this a public-first initiative, Europe runs the risk of overlooking the mature Digital Identity market and its specialised Digital Identity solution providers. They should play a key role in driving the much-needed usability and mass adoption of trusted digital identities across Europe as certified Digital Identity Wallet providers. At INNOPAY, we sincerely hope that Member States will actively involve these market players and refrain from re-inventing the wheel.