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As eIDAS 2.0 takes effect, EU faces ‘paradigm shift for digital identity in Europe’

Member states must have EUDI Wallets working and freely available by 2026
As eIDAS 2.0 takes effect, EU faces ‘paradigm shift for digital identity in Europe’
 

With the European Council’s recent adoption of a new framework for a European digital identity, the path to the EU Digital Identity (EUDI) Wallet and a fully digitized Europe is open. The revised Digital Identity Regulation (eIDAS 2.0) has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union and will enter into force on May 20, 2024, meaning a slew of digital ID projects can move forward into realization. A release from Generalitat de Catalunya calls the EUDI Wallet initiative a “key step forward for the European Union,” which will give users greater autonomy over their personal data and ensure national digital IDs are created with standardized technical specifications. Applications range from age verification safeguards to accessing government services.

“The revised regulation represents a clear paradigm shift for digital identity in Europe,” says the Generalitat. “It seeks to guarantee that individuals and businesses across Europe have universal access to secure and reliable electronic identification and authentication.”

While not everything will kick smoothly into gear right away, deadlines have been set. Member states must make a national digital identity wallet available to citizens by 2026. These will be recognized across member states. Wallets will be optional and opt-in, which mechanisms in place to prevent discrimination against those who choose not to use them. Issuance, use and revocation will be free. The system software will be open source, with some leeway for individual states to withhold certain information with reasonable justification. Member states are obliged to provide free validation mechanisms only to verify the authenticity and validity of the wallet and the identity of the relying parties.

Per the release, the revised regulation also “clarifies the scope of qualified website authentication certificates, which make sure that users can verify who is behind a website while preserving current, well-established industry security norms and standards.”

‘Alternative means of online age assurance will still be required’

The EU Digital Identity Wallet will be a win for the age verification ecosystem – but not, according to the organization behind euConsent, a silver bullet. In a LinkedIn post, controlling non-profit euConsent ASPL says that while the EUDIW program will provide “a great source of authoritative age data for use in online age assurance processes,” usability could be a problem at first, “as the process to disclose an age attribute to each website separately will be too complex to be convenient.”

The organization says that, with the EU code of conduct for age appropriate design due to be developed as part of the Better Internet For Kids+ strategy, “an alternative means of online age assurance will still be required for children too young to have their own EUDI wallet, including many seeking to prove they are old enough (13-16) to give consent to share personal data under Article 8 GDPR without parental consent.”

Large-scale pilot projects to stay on established flight path

While several milestones are now in the rearview, the EUDI Wallet project still has a ways to go until completion. According to research from the Internet Identity Workshop’s Kristina Yasuda, Paul Bastian and Torsten Lodderstedt, the four large-scale EUDIW pilot projects are slated to continue through 2025. Work continues on prototypes to support implementation of the eIDAS regulation. Common public use of the EUDI wallets is unlikely before mid-2026.

Still, the gate is now open, and a unified European digital identity will soon be a reality.

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