In September 2020, President von der Leyen proposed a European Digital ID. Addressing the European Parliament during her first State of the Union speech, the President of the European Commission announced:
Every time an App or website asks us to create a new digital identity or to easily log on via a big platform, we have no idea what happens to our data in reality. That is why the Commission will soon propose a secure European e-identity. One that we trust and that any citizen can use anywhere in Europe to do anything from paying your taxes to renting a bicycle. A technology where we can control ourselves what data and how data is used.
The Commission argues that a European Digital ID (also called a European e-identity, or e-ID) would allow European citizens to have “one common digital identity instead of creating new ones for each website or action they want to take, such as opening a bank account”. Various technical solutions have been suggested to strengthen trust and security in an e-ID, including blockchain technology.
European citizens seem to see value in an e-ID. In a 2019 Eurobarometer survey, 63% of Europeans polled said it would be “quite useful” or “very useful” to have a “secure single digital ID that could serve for all online services (both public and private) and give you control over the use of your data”.
There may also be significant economic benefits from a European Digital ID. One study by McKinsey suggests that “extending full digital ID coverage could unlock economic value equivalent to 3 to 13 percent of GDP in 2030”. Currently, sixteen EU Member States (including Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the Netherlands) have national digital ID systems in place. However, public attitudes towards digital IDs vary between Member States, with some more sceptical than others.
Voters in Switzerland (not an EU Member State) recently rejected an e-ID scheme over privacy concerns. In some countries, studies suggest there is public wariness around issues of government technical competence, as well as memories of mass public surveillance during the 20th century, citing “negative past experiences of IT failures, function creep, and political history of oppression”.
Should there be a European Digital ID? How can Digital IDs be introduced to the public in a way that reassures sceptics? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!