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Calls for digital identity access in European Commission rights and principles proposal

Calls for digital identity access in European Commission rights and principles proposal

The European Commission has reached out to both the European Parliament and Council to sign a new declaration on digital rights and principles that represent European values. Universal availability of digital identity is among the measures proposed.

“The digital transformation affects every aspect of people’s lives. It offers significant opportunities for a better quality of life, innovation, economic growth and sustainability, but it also presents new challenges for the fabric, security and stability of our societies and economies,” opens the surprising readable draft of the declaration (accessible via the EC website).

“With the acceleration of the digital transformation, the time has come for the European Union (EU) to spell out how its values and fundamental rights should be applied in the online world.”

The draft declaration calls for the digital world to remain multilingual and provide protections for children and young people such as age-appropriate design, one of many similarities to the UK’s legislation – current and forthcoming.

“Everyone should have access to all key public services online across the Union. Nobody is to be asked to provide data more often than necessary when accessing and using digital public services,” states the declaration, leading to:

“(E)nsuring that all Europeans are offered an accessible, secure and trusted digital identity that gives access to a broad range of online services; ensuring wide accessibility and re-use of government information; facilitating and supporting seamless, secure and interoperable access across the Union to digital health and care services, including health records, designed to meet people’s needs.”

Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager, comments: “We want safe technologies that work for people, and that respect our rights and values. Also when we are online. And we want everyone to be empowered to take an active part in our increasingly digitised societies. This declaration gives us a clear reference point to the rights and principles for the online world.”

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, goes even further on the global impact: “The declaration of digital rights and principles also establishes once and for all that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online. We also aim to promote these principles as a standard for the world.”

A simplified and gently illustrated factsheet helps sum up the respect and solidarity at the heart of the declaration. A public consultation by the Commission found general support, with 8 out of 10 EU citizens considering it “useful for the European Union to define and promote a common European vision on digital rights and principles.”

But as a declaration from the European Commission, it will not be legislation. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union will discuss the proposal. If jointly endorsed, the declaration will inform the “approach to the digital transformation that the EU will champion on the global stage.”

A report on the declaration by EUobserver states that the declaration is intended to help the EU “catch up” with China and the U.S. whose tech companies are helping them dominate the online world.

The article quotes Vestager telling a press conference that with the U.S. planning to launch the Alliance for the Future of the Internet in the coming weeks (to which the EU was invited but was postponed due to criticism from rights groups), plus similar discussions elsewhere, “We aim to be in the forefront of this global momentum and create something that allows us to take action on the ground and to take action together if we can inspire like-minded partners.”

World Bank offers guidance on sexual orientation and gender identity in ID systems

A recent World Bank blog discusses the issues caused by the collection of gender or sex markers in digital ID databases and on credentials, particularly for people identifying as transgender.

ID Systems and SOGI Inclusive Design” is a new note on good practice from the World Bank, which runs the ID4D initiative in developing countries.

In the summary from the blog, the report finds that collecting gender rather than sex attributes reduces the risk of discrimination and more closely matches a person and their gender identity.

“If appropriate given prevailing norms about gender identity, flexibility beyond the binary (M/F) gender classification can promote greater recognition of gender minorities,” states the blog, also stating how the self-assertion of gender or sex attributes can help ensure fully inclusive and discrimination-free ID registration or updating.

Another way to reduce the risk of discrimination would be to not include a gender or sex attribute on identity credentials or as part of the numbering logic of ID numbers.

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