Call it a Swiss digital ID reboot.
That would seem to describe the ongoing situation in Switzerland, where authorities are again making a push toward constructing a national digital ID program designed in large part to enable secure authentication for public and private web services. But questions of who will control it — the national government, or a consortium of private companies — could further delay digital ID progress.
Questions of who will control the digital ID program — the national government, or a consortium of private companies — could further delay progress
According to one recent report from that country, the Swiss parliament, “has approved the creation of a digital ID to certify the identity of users of internet services, but critics are planning to challenge the decision by forcing a nationwide vote.”
Swiss digital ID has long history
The recently approved plan stretches back some four years and would reportedly limit “the role of the state to act as a licensing authority for technical ID systems developed by the private sector. A federal commission is to oversee the procedures and activities of the ID providers.” Not only that, but the law, according to that report, “also defines a staggered system of security levels, but it does not specify whether mobile phones, smart cards, or other solutions will be allowed.”
According to an official summary of the project from Swiss digital ID proponents, “the E-ID is a key infrastructure element on which further digital services can be built, e.g. fully digital eGovernment, eVoting, eBanking, eHealth, eEducation and eCommerce.” Even so, a previous project called Suisse ID — launched nearly a decade ago — failed to gain enough traction and was eventually relaunched as SwissID about two years ago.
In general, digital ID proponents in the country want those digital IDs to be used in various types of digital transactions and activities, tasks that could range from mortgages to e-voting to submitting tax returns. Indeed, when it comes to using digital ID in such ways, Switzerland — despite its reputation for sophisticated financial services and other economic activities — is, according to the European Commission, a laggard within Western Europe when it comes to e-governance.
A big reason for that? The lack of a robust national digital ID system, the European Commission said. “Switzerland is still setting up the basic infrastructure and legal framework for a national e-ID system,” read one recent summary of those findings, which said that the percentage of Swiss citizens using e-government services declined to 55 percent in 2018 from 58 percent in 2012.
Next steps for Swiss digital ID
So what’s next?
People opposed to the apparently re-booted digital ID effort in Switzerland — people who reportedly have concerns about such issues as privacy and security, and who want more governmental control of the digital ID project and less business supervision — reportedly are working to put the issue to a vote of the people via referendum. Among the main forces backing this effort is the Swiss Green Party. As part of their push, opponents are using a poll from May that reportedly found that most Swiss citizens want the government in total control of the country’s emerging digital ID system.