Electronic identities all over the EU?
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Deutsch: Elektronische Identitäten für alle EU-Bürger?
The European Commission (EC) plans to have harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and electronic authentication services (eIAS) across EU member states.
On 2 May 2012, the EC published a strategy document for the setting up of children online protection systems, which also mentions a proposition for a “pan-European framework for electronic authentication" (unmentioned however in the document press release or its citizens’ summary).
The European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children sketches a series of proposals to harmonise protections across member states for children using online services with many suggestions for the increased use of age classification, as well as the inclusion of "efficient" parental controls "on any type of device and for any type of content, including user-generated content".
"The Commission... intends to propose in 2012 a pan-European framework for electronic authentication that will enable the use of personal attributes (age in particular) to ensure compliance with the age provisions of the proposed data protection regulation," says the document which also says that the industry will be expected to introduce "technical means" of electronic identification and authentication.
It also reads: “A clear regulatory environment for eIAS would boost user convenience, trust and confidence in the digital world. This will increase the availability of cross-border and cross-sector eIAS and stimulate the take up of cross-border electronic transactions in all sectors.”
The proposal for a e-identities all over the EU states is set to be presented by Neelie Kroes, the EU's Digital Agenda Commissioner, on 30 May, and is intended “to facilitate cross-border electronic transactions” through the adoption of harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and eIAS.
The EC has been forcing the e-identification for some time. In 1999, a directive was adopted to establish a common framework for electronic signatures with the idea that if EU citizens feel comfortable in signing documents online, they will move to cross-border e-commerce for business and shopping.
The proposition faces criticisms from civil rights groups and member states where there are no electronic ID documents and the implementation of e-systems is still slow. E-signatures are limited to a few sectors and only a few EU nations have introduced electronic identity cards.
Moreover, even paper ID cards are not used in some countries such as UK, Denmark or Ireland and there is a strong public opposition to them.
However, the EC is decided to push the plan forward and to “widen the scope of the current Directive by including also ancillary authentication services that complement e-signatures, like electronic seals, time/date stamps, etc,” as reads an internal paper prepared by Kroes’ cabinet.
Electronic identity has been criticised also due to the risks of identity theft and virtual fraud. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has suggested amending Kroes’ proposal to strengthen its data-protection obligations, such as a 24-hour data breach notification which is already part of the legislative framework for EU data protection launched by Reding in January.
The EC proposal will probably face also the opposition of the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers. “Close Council scrutiny of detailed provisions should be expected, as not all member states have e-IDs and the subject is linked to core national sovereignty (state-citizen relationship, security), as well as e-Government organisation,” Kroes’ cabinet wrote.
Brussels wants e-identities for EU citizens (21.05.2012)
European e-identity plan to be unveiled this month (3.05.2012)
European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children (draft) (05.2012)
EC Press Release - Digital Agenda: New strategy for safer internet and
better internet content for children and teenagers (2.05.2012)
Citizens' summary - European strategy for a better internet for children