Editorial

EU to unveil digital identity wallet

The European Commission to announce plans for a digital identity wallet to allow Europeans to access public and private services

Posted 3 June 2021 by Christine Horton


The European Commission will today (Thursday) announce plans for a digital identity wallet to allow Europeans to access public and private services.

It follows requests from member states to find a safe way for citizens to access public and private services online.

The digital wallet would securely store payment details and passwords and allow citizens from all 27 countries to log into local government websites or pay utility bills using a single recognised identity, reports the FT, citing people with knowledge of the plans.

The EU-wide app, which can be accessed via fingerprint or retina scanning among other methods, will also serve as a vault where users can store official documents such as a driver’s licence.

Using the wallet will reportedly not be compulsory, but citizens who chose to sign up would benefit from an extra-secure digital ecosystem and greater flexibility ideal for post-pandemic life.

The FT quotes Thierry Breton, EU commissioner in charge of digital policy as saying: “The new digital ID will give every European the keys to their digital twin.”

In order to protect citizens, EU officials will force a structural separation preventing companies which access user data from using it for any other commercial activity, such as marketing new products.

Brussels is engaged in discussions with member states to provide guidelines on technical standards for the rollout of the digital wallet, which is expected to be fully operational in about a year.

The new proposals are part of a review of existing EU-wide electronic identification and follows a consultation on the “drivers and barriers” for the deployment of a digital wallet. The existing system has experienced low take-up with only 19 countries introducing digital IDs and not all of them are compatible with one another. Ultimately, member states will decide how to implement the system.

Reuters reports that the move also seeks to counter the growing popularity of digital wallets offered by Apple, Google, Thales and financial institutions which critics say could pose privacy and data protection concerns.

The adoption of an electronic wallet could generate as much as 9.6 billion euros in benefits for the EU and create as many as 27,000 jobs over a five-year period, according to the EU.

Currently 14 EU countries have their own digital identity schemes, of which only seven are mobile apps.