The European Commission proposed before the summer an EU-wide framework to enable all EU citizens to have a digital identity but it did not urge countries to use blockchain in the process, although the technology seems quite fitting. EURACTIV France reports.
“There is an opportunity to deploy a system in Europe based on this concept of self-sovereign identity and to take advantage of this formidable regulation to put digital trust back at the centre of exchanges,” said Hervé Bonazzi, head of a consortium founded by the Caisse des Dépôts group, La Poste, and two energy utilities, EDF and Engie.
The e-wallet – on top of having peoples’ surnames, first names, dates, place of birth, gender or nationality – should enable Europeans to identify themselves online and in the long term store a collection of administrative documents of all kinds, which can be recognised and used throughout the bloc for administrative purposes.
“The European digital identity will allow us to act in any member state as we would at home, at no extra cost and more easily, whether we want to rent a flat or open a bank account outside our country of origin,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for digital affairs.
The stated aim of the proposal is to make sure that “at least 80% of citizens should be able to use a digital ID solution to access key public services by 2030.”
The Commission’s proposal builds on the framework of the 2014 eIDAS regulation – which lays the foundation for citizens in countries with digital ID schemes to use their own national electronic identification schemes to access public services available online in other EU countries.
To date, only 14 EU countries, home to about 59% of EU residents, have notified Brussels of an eID scheme.
The reform proposal leaves some room for states to manoeuvre at a technical level and even leaves the door open to a decentralised system.
Blockchain technology – which allows information to be stored and transmitted transparently, securely and without a central control body – could therefore be used.
“Blockchain is just a means that forces the ‘privacy by design’ approach and creates a network of trust between actors,” Bonazzi told EURACTIV, noting that “if we adopt systems of this type, we will greatly reduce the risks of data breaches” as data is no longer hosted by a single entity.
Bonazzi also pointed out that the use of blockchain would, by definition, “enhance the ability to properly implement the GDPR,” the EU privacy law that the Commission’s proposal is intended to complement.
In its blockchain strategy, the EU executive states that the technology “must respect and enhance the evolving European digital identity framework” and points to the European public sector “playing a trailblazing role in blockchain by building its own blockchain infrastructure”.
A Commission spokesperson, however, told EURACTIV that “the new rules do not require the use of blockchain technology for its technical concept. The proposal describes functional requirements of the European Digital Identity Wallet but stays technologically neutral on how they will be implemented”. “Which specific technology is most suitable for the European Digital Identity Wallets will be agreed in technical discussions with Member States”, they added.
In France, too, there is great interest in the benefits of blockchain technology. Last May, the interior ministry wrote that it “could be the instrument that reconciles security (integrity, authentication, trust) and respect for privacy”.
[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]