Thales has published a primer that details the potential advantages of the European Union’s proposed digital identity program. The European Commission first announced that it would be developing a mobile wallet app in June of 2021, and is currently advancing updated eIDAS legislation to support the new identity scheme. If all goes well, the government is hoping to move forward with eIDAS 2 pilot projects in September of this year.
According to Thales, the new mobile ID app is designed to simplify digital identity for European citizens. The app would outfit people in EU member states with a digital ID that could be stored on a smartphone, and used as proof of identity in online and in-person interactions anywhere in the EU. That would make for an improvement over the current state of affairs, in which several countries have introduced digital IDs that are not yet recognized beyond their own borders.
Thales argues that the new wallet would smooth over some of those jurisdictional issues, and create a uniform European economy. It should also increase adoption rates for digital IDs more generally. The original eIDAS bill from 2014 establishes authentication standards for digital IDs, but uptake has been low in the EU thus far. Just over half (60 percent) of EU residents have access to a digital ID at the moment, and only 14 percent of public services will recognize a digital ID across national boundaries.
If the new mobile wallet can improve those numbers, digital IDs should allow people to move more freely, and make it easier for everyone to do business. That could create anywhere from a 3 to 13 percent jump in GDP before the end of the decade, and deliver a number of conveniences for everyday civilians. For example, people would be able to use their EU mobile ID to open a bank account, file a tax return, or apply for university, or as proof of age when they go to a bar. The IDs would be stored in a wallet on a standard smartphone, while the app itself would allow people to store multiple documents and determine exactly what information gets shared in each interaction.
The app would also have a digital signature utility that would give people a secure and reliable way to sign official documents online. In the meantime, the European Commission has started crafting new data privacy legislation.