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A new EC proposal on e-identities and e-signatures

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On 4 June 2012, the European Commission published a new draft regulation on e-signatures and e-identities that is meant to extend the existing e-Signatures Directive to include new services such as e-stamping or e-seals that would guarantee the origin and the integrity of an electronic document.

“The proposed Regulation will ensure people and businesses can use their own national electronic identification schemes (e-IDs) to access public services in other EU countries where e-IDs are available.” says the EC press realease.

By the draft regulation, citizens’ e-identities will be automatically recognised in other EU member countries without need of extra paper work. „The proposed Regulation will ensure mutual acceptance of electronic identification schemes (eIDs), e-Signatures and related online trust services,” explained Ryan Heath, spokesperson for Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The EC assures that the regulation will not oblige EU member states to introduce eID cards, that “the proposals are designed to avoid the centralisation of information” and that there will be no European eID database or any other kind of European database.

According to the Commission, the security of the electronic use of personal data in other countries will be protected with state-of-the-art technology and procedures and no unnecessary data will not be revealed.

“If a teenager wanted secure access to a chat room for 14-18 year old, or gamblers needed to prove they were of legal age, the website should only check information about their age from the e-ID card. Other details such as nationality and address would not need to be revealed,” details the Commission’s paper.

However, the proposal favours the introduction of e-IDs. The member states taking up e-IDs will benefit from incentives and although the document underlines that harmonisation of e-identities is not required, best practices will be exchanged and followed among member states with e-Ids, which will lead to an actual harmonisation.

The proposal will probably still raise controversy in countries with high concerns about privacy such as the United Kingdom where citizens have long opposed the introduction of identity cards. „We fought to be free and we will again fight to be free,” said a EurActiv reader.

Security is another matter of concern as the current data protection systems are not entirely equipped to deal with increasingly sophisticated techniques to steal data and identities in the electronic world and eIDs would also be targeted by Internet fraudsters and criminals organisations.

The French Pirate Party called for avoiding the centralisation of data storage and for allowing citizens to disclose the minimum of personal information.

Commission launches e-identity initiative (4.06.2012) http://www.euractiv.com/infosociety/commission-launches-identity-ini-news-513104

Digital Agenda: new Regulation to enable cross-border electronic signatures and to get more value out of electronic identification in Digital Single Market (4.06.2012) http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/12/558&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

EC Draft Regulation on electronic identification and trusted services for electronic transactions in the internal market (4.06.2012) http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/esignature/eu_legislation/regulation/index_en.htm

EDRi-gram 10.10: Electronic identities all over the EU? (23.05.2012) http://edri.org/edrigram/number10.10/electronic-identities-european-union

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