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The European Digital Identity: Parliament’s final position

The European Digital Identity is a proposal that will allow EU citizens, residents and businesses to identify themselves, access digital services and digitally sign documents through a Digital ID and store and share “attributes” such as personal information, diplomas and licenses safely and easily using a Digital Wallet. It will provide inter-operability across the union; with signatures and attributes recognised in all member states, making it easier to work, study and travel around the Union.

In 2022, I led negotiations on this law in the JURI Committee, with negotiations concluding in October 2022. Following our completion of work on the law, it was up to the lead committee to take our proposed changes into account and I am glad to say that they have! In this article, let’s take a look at what we achieved, and what is next for the European Digital Identity!

✅ Stronger protection for citizens privacy

One of our key concerns was that Big Tech may take advantage of this system to force citizens to hand over data, or that worse still, governments might force citizens to use their wallet to sign up in a way that would impact their right to privacy. In addition to this, the Commission wanted to introduce a single unique and persistent identifier for each citizen, a move that would enable tracing across the EU.

In JURI we replaced the single and unique identifier with a privacy-friendly alternative, guaranteed the right to use pseudonyms and introduced a simple dashboard where a user can see everyone they have shared data with and revoke sharing at the click of a button.

I’m happy to say that the lead committee has fully adopted these proposed changes, meaning parliament will fight for a more secure wallet for citizens!

✅ No discrimination against citizens who don’t want to use the wallet

Even with strong privacy protection, some citizens may not want to use the wallet, and that is okay: it should be up to each citizen to choose how they wish to interact with public services. That is why we introduced an obligation to treat people who use the wallet and people who don’t equally.

The lead committee has decided to take up this proposal: in negotiations with member states we will do everything we can to make sure citizens are treated equally, whether they use the wallet or not!

✅ A wallet open and accessible to all

If we want the wallet to be a success, it has to be accessible for everyone, but unfortunately, the Commission’s proposal was lacking clarity on accessibility for people with disabilities, and contained limitations that may have prevented citizens with older mobile devices, or using alternative operating systems from using the wallet. In addition, there were no stipulations that the wallet should be open source. I believe that software developed with public money should be open source, and that we can only expect citizens to trust a wallet if they can access the source code.

Our proposals to improve accessibility and make wallets open source were accepted by the lead committee, and while the proposal on making it available on alternative operating systems was not adopted, the fact that wallets will be open source should make it easier to port wallets to various platforms.

🆗 Keeping the Internet private & secure

In our previous article on this issue, we explained why the part of this proposal posed a risk for the security of the internet. We proposed the deletion of the entire chapter which introduces these obligations, to send a strong message to the lead committee. While the lead committee did not delete the chapter entirely, they did make changes that address the issue. The main problem was that it gave governments the power to tell browsers who they should trust to secure the internet, potentially allowing governments to spy on citizens. The final proposal of the lead committee gives browsers the possibility to overrule governments when user security and privacy is at stake, ensuring the internet stays safe and secure for all.

What comes next?

Now that the lead committee has voted, parliament will vote in plenary to adopt the report and begin official negotiations with the Council. Parliament has a negotiating mandate for a private, secure, and accessible wallet that will better serve European Citizens. It will be up to the rapporteur, and member state governments, to come to an agreement!

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