European Union’s Digital Identity Regulation comes into force

The Regulation (EU) 2024/1183 establishing the European Digital Identity Framework has officially come into force, paving the way for the EU Digital Identity Wallet, expected to be available by 2026.

The Regulation establishes a legal framework for digital identities, ensuring they are recognized and trusted across all EU member states. 

It was endorsed by the European Parliament on February 28, with a vote of 335 to 190 with 31 abstentions, and adopted by the EU Council of Ministers on March 26. It finally came into effect on May 20.

The EU Digital Identity will be available to EU citizens, residents, and businesses who want to identify themselves or provide confirmation of certain personal information. It can be used for both online and offline public and private services across the EU.

The regulation also orders EU Member States to provide EU Digital Identity Wallets to citizens within 24 months of Implementing Act’s adoption, outlining technical specifications and certification. These Acts, to be adopted between 6 to 12 months after the Regulation approval, will be informed by the requirements and specifications developed for the EU Digital Identity Toolbox and ensure uniform implementation of wallets across Europe.

The need for a European Digital Identity stems from several flaws in the current government-offered digital identification systems within the EU. 

Current systems are not accessible to the entire population and are often restricted to online public services, lacking seamless cross-border access. Only a small percentage of key public service providers across member states allow cross-border authentication, hindering the ability to prove identity online without passwords.

In addition, there were concerns regarding the transparency of data processing and citizens wanted a secure single digital ID for all online services.

The new Regulation builds on the 2014 Regulation on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS Regulation). 

Under the eIDAS regulation, Member States could, voluntarily, notify national electronic schemes, which then other Member States had to recognise it. The recognition of notified electronic identification became mandatory in 2018. Yet, there was no requirement for Member States to develop a national electronic identification. Therefore, the new regulation has been introduced to enhance the digital identity framework and extend its benefits to the private sector.

Due to the new Regulation, EU Member States will be required to provide a digital wallet application to their citizens. A “Wallet Provider” will be responsible for developing the digital ID application, while official Digital ID Issuers will handle the provisioning of digital documents to the app.

These documents can be either “Qualified” documents, such as official government-issued IDs like driver’s licenses and social security cards, or “non-Qualified” documents like train tickets and gym memberships.

“Service Providers,” also referred to as “Relying Parties,” will have the ability to request citizens’ digital IDs for identity verification. This category encompasses a range of institutions, from banks to universities to pharmacies. For instance, if a citizen wanted to open a new bank account, they could present their mobile ID. The bank, acting as a Service Provider, would then authenticate it to verify the customer’s identity.

In practical use, EU Digital Identity Wallets enable citizens to prove their identity, share digital documents, or confirm specific personal attributes across the EU without revealing full identity details, maintaining full control over shared data.

It aims to increase security, privacy, and user control over personal data, making it easier for citizens to manage their sensitive Personal Identifiable Information (PII).

The EU Digital Identity Wallet will enable EU citizens to store and manage various identification documents, such as IDs, driver’s licenses, and bank account details, in one digital platform. 

By 2026, this wallet will enable users to prove their identity and access services online and offline across the EU without needing physical documents. They will only have to show their virtual ID on their smartphone.

  • Public Services: requesting birth certificates, medical certificates, reporting a change of address
  • Banking: opening a bank account
  • Education: applying for university
  • Healthcare: storing medical prescriptions
  • Travel and Accommodation: renting a car, checking into a hotel
  • Recognition across the EU and made available to anyone who wants to use it:  any EU citizen, resident, and business in the EU who would like to make use of the EU Digital Identity will be able to do so.
  • Control Over Data: the EU Digital Identity Wallets will enable people to choose and keep track of their identity, data and certificates which they share with third parties. Users will have a simple and safe way to control how much information they share with services.
  • Transparency and security: the wallets will operate on an open-source license, guaranteeing transparency and security. Users will have confidence that their data is handled securely, with measures in place to prevent misuse or unauthorized tracking.
  • Smooth Onboarding: Citizens will be able to utilize national eID schemes to register for their wallets, ensuring a smooth transition to digital identity management.
  • For Governments, it will improve fraud prevention by providing a secure and verifiable identity mechanism, as well as better security and privacy.
  • For providers of digital services, it will also mean reduced authentication costs andreduced dependence on competing platforms.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, has stated that “The EU Digital Identity Wallet will revolutionize the way European citizens and businesses engage with online services by seamlessly integrating convenience, safety, and privacy. By providing a transparent and secure framework, this innovative solution ensures that our personal data remains safeguarded as we navigate the digital world.”

The European Digital Identity Wallet ensures mutual recognition among the EU Member States and promotes harmonization of security standards. It provides citizens and businesses with a secure, convenient, and privacy-focused tool that enables digital identification with full control of our personal data.

It will achieve a more digitally integrated Union reducing digital barriers and strengthening the internal market to identify themselves and to provide authentication of their identity online and offline. It represents a major step towards Europe’s digitalization, guaranteeing universal access, trustworthiness, security, and interoperability across the European Union.

This way, people are more likely to engage in online transactions, thus boosting digital commerce and innovation, leading to the emergence of new services and products, and therefore, contributing to the EU’s economic stability and growth.

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On 17 April 2024, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) adopted an Opinion on valid consent in the context of “consent or pay”  models implemented by large online platforms following a request by the Dutch, Norwegian, and German Supervisory Data Protection Authorities.  In this Opinion, the EDPB established that “consent or pay”  models “in most cases”, do not comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements for obtaining valid consent for processing personal data.

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