What is the European Digital Identity Wallet?
EU 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. 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. These wallets, often offered by online platforms, allow their users to log in to various services online, from shopping to reading news but these logins are not giving users full control on what data they share to identify themselves with online services. Under the new rules, EU Digital Identity Wallets issued by Member States will be available to everyone. With the EU Digital Identity Wallets, 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 an EU 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 recognise the EU Digital Identity Wallets, its security features make it attractive for all private service providers to recognize it for services that require strong authentication, creating new business opportunities.
Will the EU Digital Identity Wallet be used also for access to private services?
Yes. EU citizens should be able to use their EU Digital Identity Wallet accessing digital services all across the Internet, including private services. As such, it improves the effectiveness and extends the benefits of secure and convenient digital identity to the private sector.
For some private services acceptance of the wallet will be obligatory, notably where strong assurance of the identity of their customers is needed (e.g. in the areas of transport, energy, banking and financial services, social security, health, drinking water, postal services, digital infrastructure, education or telecommunications), they will be obliged to accept the EU Digital Identity Wallet for identification. The same applies to Very Large Online Platforms such as provided by Meta, Amazon, Apple or Alphabet/Google.
What can I do with the new EU Digital Identity Wallet?
You will be able to use it to access both public and private online services all across 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 EU Digital Identity Wallet?
Here are a few examples of how the European Digital Identity Wallet could be used once in place:
Use the EU Digital Identity Wallet: Peter has installed an EU Digital Identity 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 card in his physical wallet.
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 lot 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 EU 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.
Prove your age: Myra would like to open an account on a social media platform. For this purpose, she has to prove that she is of the legal age for accessing social media platforms in her country. Where very large online platforms require users to authenticate to access online services, they shall also accept the use of EU Digital Identity Wallets. If Myra choses to use her EU Digital Identity Wallet for accessing the social media platform, she will be in a position to disclose only her age for signing up. She will not have to share any additional personal data.
What is the added value compared to the current system?
The EU 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 that protect personal data.
By offering a harmonised system all over the EU, the new rules move far beyond the existing cross-border legal framework for trusted digital identities, the European 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 systems to their citizens while others do not and, when they do, not all these systems can be used cross-border. At the time of adoption of the Commission proposal, 19 notified eID schemes were used by 14 Member States, covering almost 60 per cent of the EU-27 population but take-up was low, their use was cumbersome and business cases were 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. The EU set ambitious targets for the digital transformation; according to the Digital Decade Policy Programme, by 2030 all Europeans should have access to a digital ID and key public services – online.
What happens to my existing eID?
The EU 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 an EU Digital Identity Wallet?
Member States, whether directly or via a company entrusted by them, will offer the wallet to their citizens and residents at the national level. Everyone will be able to download, install and use the EU Digital Identity Wallet on their personal smartphone or device.
How will the security, privacy and personal data protection be ensured?
The proposal provides for a high level of security. The new rules foresee that Member States agree on standards, technical specifications and operational aspects to ensure the Member States’ Digital Identity Wallets have the highest security levels. In February 2023, the Commission, together with the Member States, published the first version of the toolbox.
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 is working closely with Member States to agree on and adopt harmonised standards, technical specifications and operational aspects through an implementing act. It is a crucial first step that will enable the creation of a robust framework for digital identification and authentication based on common standards across the EU. It aims to ensure a high level of trust in digital transactions in Europe.
In February 2023, the Commission, together with the Member States, published the first version of the toolbox.
What is the Commission doing to help Member States prepare for deployment of the EU Digital Identity Wallet?
The Commission is in the process of developing a wallet prototype based on the technical specifications. In addition, the Commission is co-funding four large-scale pilots testing the wallet in a diverse range of everyday use cases, including providing identification to online and offline public and private services, displaying one’s mobile driving licence, authorising payments, exchanging diplomas, signing documents electronically, and presenting medical prescriptions.
The results of the pilots will enhance both the technical specifications and the wallet prototype.
What is the purpose of the common Toolbox proposed together with the European Digital Identity Framework?
To ensure that the EU digital Identity Wallet app is available as soon as possible after the adoption of the legislative proposal, the Commission, together with the Member States, published the first version of the toolbox. It serves as the basis to build the prototype of the EU Digital Identity Wallet app. Member States will keep working closely with the Commission to continuously update the Toolbox.
When can I use this EU Digital Identity Wallet?
Member States should issue the new EU Digital Identity Wallets 24 months after adoption of an Implementing Act setting out the technical specifications for the wallet. The Implementing Act should be available 6 months after adoption of this new Regulation.
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*Updated on 29/06/2023