European countries adopting eID
The program in Estonia is so advanced that it has transcended eID in favor of mobile identity.
In Estonia, citizens have been using Mobiil-ID to interact with 400 public and private sector services since 2007. They use it for electronic banking, applying for a driver licenses, accessing academic grades from universities, voting, changing pension plans and more.
Estonia is verifying these services using the electronic signature function of the mobile device, which the country considers legally equivalent to a physical signature.
The system is based on a specialized Mobile-ID SIM card, which the customer obtains from a mobile phone operator. Private keys are stored on the mobile SIM card, along with a small application for authentication and signing.
If a citizen were to use Mobiil-ID to log into a secure site, for instance a bank account, the process would go something like this:
The user first clicks the “Log in with Mobiil-ID” option on a supported website. The mobile device beeps and displays a screen indicating that a connection is being made.
The user is then prompted to enter a Mobiil-ID pin code into their mobile device. The screen on the phone disappears and the website is automatically reloaded with a logged-in screen.
Per e-Estonia.com, the official website for the program, the country also issues a chip card that carries embedded files, and uses 2048-bit public key encryption to enable it to be used as proof of ID in electronic environments. The 1.1 million active e-ID cards in Estonia represent 90% of the country’s 1.3 million residents.
European geography demands interoperability, convergence
When it comes to eID initiatives on the European continent, interoperability seems to be another recurring theme.
Given the shear number of countries packed within the continent’s borders, it has become a primary objective to ensure that European eID credentials are standardized. However, the standardization process is complex and progress has been slow.
There are efforts underway to create a digital identity marketplace for online identity and authentication, Most says. “Europe has the Holy Grail in its sights, but it looks to be a long and somewhat harrowing journey,” she adds.
If interoperability is the goal, convergence is the reason.
“Domestically, converging e-services is the focus,” says Most. “Countries such as Estonia, Belgium, and Austria have cultivated environments where these services flourish, while Germany and Spain have distributed upwards of one million card readers promote the uptake of citizen e-services.”
When people think about identity cards they think driver licenses and passports, so using them for access to other services is new, says NXP’s Barbu. “Increasingly governments want to integrate additional services to their citizens with benefits, electronic signature and mass transit topping the list,” he adds.
State of the Union
Countries the world over are making the jump to eIDs, and Europe is leading the charge. Per the Acuity Market Intelligence report, European eID card program volumes are due to peak in 2016 with more than 91 million units issued.
High level IT infrastructure, financial resources and a commitment to pan-European electronic service delivery distinguishes Europe from all other regions and sets the global eID bar.
Despite the differences between projects, all European countries can benefit from the infrastructure and social framework that supports the delivery of a national eID.
“The high level of supporting IT infrastructure and financial resources, along with the commitment to pan-European electronic service delivery, distinguishes Europe from all other regions of the world and sets the global National eID bar,” says Most.
Despite political and economic factors still impacting adoption and implementation, Europe is an ideal environment to foster an eID program. European infrastructure has been a key contributor to the success of eID implementations thus far and will be vital as the continent continues its pursuit of standardization across borders.