eema Warns That Privacy And Interoperability Remain Key Challenges To National And Corporate Electronic Identity

By | April 4, 2006

Following its recent European e-ID Card Conference in Brussels, eema, the independent European association for e-business, has warned of several roadblocks to e-ID schemes identified during an international e-ID update at the event. It was reported that despite encouraging progress with national e-ID schemes globally, including with countries that had previously hesitated, privacy and interoperability must be tackled to ensure success.

At the conference Chairman at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, Patrick Van Eecke explained the current state of progression of e-ID projects, based on a recent study of 50 countries worldwide. He revealed that only a small minority of countries have not launched any e-ID project. Pioneering countries Belgium, Italy and Estonia have set the pace, but schemes are also underway with major European countries such as France, Germany and Spain, as well as with countries that were previously uncertain about e-ID projects, including Greece, Portugal, Slovakia, Bulgaria and the Republic of Indonesia.

There is still a lot of work to be done to achieve a certain level of interoperability between national e-ID schemes. Interoperability increases convenience for users (fewer cards, fewer PINs), access to more e-services and more secure access. In order to achieve such interoperability, Chair of the European e-ID Work Group in Austria, Dr. Reinhard Posch, stated that projects should start on a mutual basis in order to develop best practices that will survive. However with the current domestic focus of the national e-ID schemes this might still take some years.

Director of the UK Identity Card Programme, Katherine Courtney, underlined the difficulty in keeping the balance between the state needing to know who we are in our interactions with them and the necessity to protect citizens´ privacy. She emphasised the importance of developing an Identity Management Infrastructure that has multiple service providers leveraged with strong registration processes to significantly reduce the possibility of multiple identities, as well as a reduced set of identifiers (perhaps ultimately one). This should avoid individuals going through multiple evidence checks, where there are opportunities for error, duplication and inconvenience, when using different applications.

In Belgium, where 200,000 e-IDs are issued each month, the purpose of the project was to give Belgian citizens an e-ID card that would enable them to authenticate themselves towards diverse applications such as tax-on-web, social security applications and online consultation of the National Registry file.

Director of Information Protection Services at KPMG Belgium, Marc Vael, explained how the Belgian e-ID is a real asset within the business for identification, authorisation, the signing of documents/e-mails and internal requests/services approval. The implementation of the e-ID scheme was not a plug-and-play process, but required the involvement of the right people for technical support, necessary communication and persuasion of the partners and clients.

“The various lessons learned from the implementation of the e-ID schemes in Belgium and the other pioneering countries can serve as useful information for the countries which are currently launching an e-ID initiative,” says Head of Special Projects at eema, Roger Dean. “The importance of using open standards, integrating the back-office first and involving the business from the start are only some of the important factors which must be taken into account when rolling out e-ID projects.”

eema will be continuing the identity debate at its 19th annual conference in Barcelona, 15-16 June 2006. For further details of the conference, please visit the website www.eema.org, contact +44 (0)1386 793028 or email info@eema.org.

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