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This page was published on 04/07/2007
Published: 04/07/2007

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Last Update: 04-07-2007  
Related category(ies):
Information society  |  Science in society

 

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EU for secure e-government identity services

Living and working in any EU city may be a no-fuss problem for Europeans, but headaches may surface when they are forced to deal with a great deal of red tape concerning labour, health and social security issues. Another hot issue is the fact that Europeans are very concerned about crime that is linked to identity theft. To support these challenges, the EU-funded technology research project GUIDE (Government User Identity for Europe) offers a technological, institutional, policy and socioeconomic forum for secure and interoperable e-government electronic identity services and transactions for Europe.

The EU supports data exchange between government databases. © Matt+
The EU supports data exchange between government databases.
Launched in 2004, GUIDE enables trusted "identity providers" located in EU Member States to provide reliable information on the identities of people and enterprises to those who need it, like government departments. What GUIDE does not do is store information about people or allow access to e-services.

Marc Greaves, coordinator for GUIDE, said that although rules for privacy and electronic record-keeping vary across the Member States, there is enough consistency to ensure that this does not become a huge problem for the exchange of data.

The challenge, according to Greaves, is that governments must be persuaded to trust each other with their citizens' data, and to make sure that these citizens have given their green light in allowing their data to be used across borders. Another problem is that the techniques used for online shopping are not always suitable for data exchange between government databases.

Greaves said that as regards the issue of trust, the project's independence has succeeded in generating interest, as well as in bolstering cooperation and proposing standards between governments. 'We're state independent, technology independent and vendor independent,' Greaves explained. 'That has helped us get things done.'

The GUIDE partners have also used and improved existing security standards to meet the needs of e-government. The 22-partner consortium includes EU-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies and universities. Groups like Liberty Alliance and OASIS set up their own "open" standards. 'GUIDE has taken the Liberty and OASIS standards and developed practical ways to use them for e-government data,' Greaves said.

In the past, identity management was done system by system and on an individual basis. It later changed into a federated model where different organisations and systems use and depend on each other's identity data. GUIDE improved this by establishing a pan-organisation, pan-EU "federation of federations".

'GUIDE is not an end in itself,' commented Greaves. 'Instead, it's an enabler for the e-government applications that will deliver the real benefits. For instance, the EU is committed to making all public procurement available electronically, and we are helping to make that possible,' he added. 'GUIDE has delivered what it was supposed to do, and it will help us all to become true European citizens.'

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