On the 3rd of June 2021, the European Commission (“EC”) proposed a framework for a trusted and secure European Digital Identity (interchangeably referred to as ‘European e-ID’). In essence, the European Digital Identity will be available to all citizens, residents, and business in the EU, enabling them to prove their identity, access various services and share documents from their European Digital Identity wallets.

Thierry Breton, commissioner for the Internal Market said that “the European Digital Identity wallets offer a new possibility for them [EU residents, citizens and businesses] to store and use data for all sorts of services, from checking in at the airport to renting a car.” Further, he adds that the framework “is about giving a choice to consumers, a European choice.”

The European Digital Identity framework

The EC states that the European Digital Identity framework will be based on three pillars:

  1. Availability only to who wants to use it;
  2. Widely Useable; and
  3. Users remaining in control of their data.

The e-ID framework envisages Member States offering citizens and businesses digital wallets (that must be recognized by a Member State) that will link their national identities with proof of other personal attributes, such as driving licence, diplomas, and bank accounts. This will enable citizens and businesses to prove who they are in order to access public sector or commercial services (including cross-border services). Furthermore, the EC states that “very large platforms will be required to accept the use of European Digital Identity wallets upon request of the user”, albeit not much detail is provided in this regard.

The EC claims that the new e-ID wallets will enable Europeans to access online services without having to use private identification methods and without unnecessarily sharing personal data. The EC hold that this solution will give Europeans full control over which aspects of their identity, data and certificates that they share with third parties (including platform giants such as Facebook), to keep track of such sharing that set their own requirements thereto.

The new European e-ID will complement the eIDAS regulation (EU Regulation 910/2014) in an attempt to address some of its limitations such as its lack of mobile support and applicability to the private sector.

The EC provides a number of examples of how the European Digital Identity Wallet may be used in practice. For example, e-IDs may be used to access both public and private online services in the EU such as accessing a bank account or applying for a loan, submitting tax declarations, enrolling in a cross-border university, and more. The major benefit highlighted by the EC is that the digital identities provided by Member States will be improved upon in terms or effectiveness and usage, with their benefits extending to the private sector and by having personal digital wallets that are secure, free, practical and that ensure the highest level of security for personal data used for authentication.   

Next Steps

The proposal is supplemented by a Recommendation, whereby Member States are encouraged to establish a common ‘toolbox’ by September 2022 which will include the technical architecture, standards and guidelines for best practices. The EC undertakes to support both Members States and the private sector on technical aspects of the e-ID in order to make their proposal a reality as quickly as possible.

This article was written by Legal Associate Dr Gigi Gatt.

For more information on technology related laws, please contact Dr Ian Gauci and Dr Terence Cassar.

Disclaimer This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.
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