The government of Switzerland is jumping on the digital ID bandwagon. The country’s Federal Council is now entering a consultation phase that will pave the way for the introduction of national digital IDs in the next few years. The consultation phase will end on October 20, at which point the government will work to pass the legislation needed to support a digital ID program. However, the government does not expect to start issuing the IDs at scale until 2025.
Despite the delayed timeline, Swiss administrators were able to provide some details about their proposed digital ID scheme. To obtain a digital ID, Swiss citizens will need to download an app and then scan a driver’s license, a passport, or a residence permit. They must then capture their facial biometrics, while performing head movements as part of a liveness check. The entire process will be filmed, and the results of the scans will be submitted to Fedpol for final approval. The agency will authorize the creation of a digital ID if those scans are consistent with its existing records.
According to officials, the entire registration process can be completed at any time of day in as little as two minutes. The digital IDs will be stored in a wallet on the user’s smartphone, and will need to be renewed whenever that person gets a new device. In that regard, each citizen can only have their digital ID stored on one device at any given time.
The government has not yet decided how long each ID will be good for before it expires. However, it did stress that citizens would be able to use their digital IDs in online and offline environments, and that they will be valid proof of identity with all government agencies. The IDs will be offered for free, and will be entirely optional.
The digital wallets used for the program can also be used to store other items like membership cards and concert tickets. The citizen’s national AVS number will be used to confirm someone’s identity when dealing with those third parties, though Fedpol stressed that it will not know when someone uses their digital ID for any other applications. Those assurances are intended to assuage privacy concerns that thwarted Switzerland’s first attempt at a digital ID in March of 2021. The IDs will be stored locally on the person’s phone (and not in a central database) for the exact same reason.
It’s unclear if Switzerland’s IDs will be recognized internationally, since they would need to comply with digital ID standards in other countries. The government is now carrying out two trial projects, one of which involves digital student driver’s permits while the other is geared toward government employees. Finland and Greece are some of the other countries moving forward with their own digital ID programs.