How can electronic identity provide a safer internet?
The role of eID in an increasingly digitalised society
Today’s world is increasingly globalised and connected, as more people are living, working and travelling across borders. While there is freedom of movement and business, the administrative burden of conducting secure, online cross-border transactions with public and private sector entities is still high. Over the past years, EU Member States have been working hard to enable citizens and businesses to access online public services using their national eID. Such services may include declaring taxes, consulting health services and opening a bank online, in full compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering Directive. All these efforts have being reinforced by the eIDAS Regulation (EU) 910/2014 on electronic identification, authentication and trust services, which aims at making national eID schemes interoperable across Europe in order to facilitate cross-border access to online public services. Currently, 11 Member States have already notified their eID scheme for mutual recognition across borders and others will follow in due course.
As there are more services available online, there is an increasing need for users to provide personal data to authenticate themselves to online platforms and services. eID plays an important role in this regard, as it allows citizens and businesses to control their daily digital lives, and it is the medium that gives users access to online services, as it provides trustworthy information about the identity of the user. The trustworthy information, in turn, can help overcome the challenges derived from the increasing digitalisation in society by ensuring respect of privacy and a high level of protection of personal data. The process of doing so is explored in greater depth in the following section.
How eID can provide a safer internet
eID can help solve certain challenges resulting from the increasing digitalisation in society, such as tackling disinformation caused by online fake news circulated by bots or forged identities and protect children from accessing websites that have age restrictions in place (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Perception of the threat of online disinformation and children's access to age-restricted content.
In fact, the use of eID can seek to foster online accountability through the use of trustworthy identification and authentication means in line with the eIDAS Regulation, thus encouraging a more responsible behaviour online. Actually, by logging into a service with an eID, two types of information can be transmitted and shared with the service a user would like to access. These types of information are the following:
- Personal information, i.e. the name or date of birth, etc. to identify who the user is;
- A digital authentication, where the user proves that the person using the eID is effectively him/her. This may occur by means of credentials using a login and a password or through the possession of a token or device, such as smartphones.
Figure 2: Showcase of the type of information that can be transmitted via eID.
As the user keeps full control of his/her eID, he/she can choose to share a minimal set of information with the service, for example his/her nationality or country of residence. In this case, only this type of information is shared with service providers and not other personal information. In fact, by enabling and supporting the use of trusted credentials or attributes securely associated with verified identity, users will be able to minimise and control the sharing of personal data, in line the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679. As a result, eID can help to overcome online misinformation and problems of protection of minors to age-restricted content. In case of the former, a user can check whether an account is linked to a real human and not to a bot or a fake profile that spreads disinformation; whilst, in case of the latter, it can securely verify whether children are old enough to access specific content online.
The Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) eID Building Block primarily supports the Member States in the roll-out of the eIDAS Network (the technical infrastructure which connects national eID schemes). CEF eID is a set of services (including software, documentation, training and support) provided by the European Commission and endorsed by the Member States, which helps public administrations and private Service Providers to extend the use of their online services to citizens from other European countries.
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