eID: A Comprehensive Guide

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PXL Vision September 14, 2023
Reading-Time: 7 min Tags: Auto-ID, eID, Technology

In response to the ongoing digitization in our modern world, you now have numerous options to verify your identity from the comfort of your own home. Yet, a physical proof of your identity, like an ID card or passport, is still always required. This is about to change: The first online state-issued ID’s for verification via smartphone have been launched. Read on to learn all about this new development and how eID works in different countries at this point.

What is an eID?

The eID (electronic identity) is a digital representation of a person's or organization's identity that has been authenticated and verified electronically. It enables users to securely identify and authenticate themselves in digital environments to access online services and resources, conduct transactions, and provide electronic signatures.

An eID can include personal identification data such as name, date of birth, and gender, as well as specific authorizations and credentials issued and managed by trusted authorities or service providers. This type of digital identity is used to ensure the security and confidentiality of online interactions and to prevent identity theft or fraudulent activity.

An eID can be read and saved by smartphones or NFC readers if you have an ID card with an integrated chip. The eID allows you to identify yourself quickly and securely online without appearing somewhere in person, and, above all, without having to present a physical document.

Why Do I Need an eID?

An eID (electronic identity) has a variety of use cases, all of which aim to improve the security and convenience of digital interactions. Some of the most common use cases for eID's include the following:

  • E-Government: Citizens can use eID's to securely log in to online government services, for instance, to file tax returns, apply for ID documents, or participate in elections online.
  • E-Commerce: Customers can use their eID to securely log in to online stores, place orders and make payments.
  • Banking: Users can be securely authenticated for online banking and financial transactions with their eID.
  • Healthcare: Patients can use their eID to access their patient records, use telemedicine services, and fill prescriptions online.
  • Education: An eID can be used for secure enrollment at educational institutions and verification of academic qualifications.

There are many use cases for eID's in various sectors and industries, with the main goal of making identity verification and authentication in the digital world more secure and efficient.

Instead of presenting physical documents or filling out extensive forms, users can use their eID to verify their identity quickly, easily and, above all, safely. However, since eID's aren't very common yet, companies currently use other solutions to verify their customers' identities. One of these options is Auto-Ident, which has numerous advantages, including its user-friendliness, efficiency and security.

eID: Current Status in the DACH Region

Though other countries have similar approaches already, too, the eID is a strictly European concept so far; yet even within the EU, the implementation process differs greatly from country to country. Currently, it is not even at the same stage within the German-speaking DACH region. So far, the launch has been most successful in Austria; Switzerland and Germany will probably take more time before the eID will be used by all citizens. Since these are some of the most advanced countries with regards to the eID though, it is worth taking a look at their progress and procedures.  

Switzerland

In Switzerland, legislation in favor of the eID and wallet function is expected to pass in the fall of 2023. After the Swiss population voted against the eID in a referendum in 2021, the parliament has instructed the Federal Council to launch a new attempt with an eID issued by the state rather than the business sector. Currently, the Swiss Federal Council is in the process of passing the bill. The state eID can't be introduced in Switzerland until it has been approved by parliament as well as the citizens. Therefore, the earliest the state eID can be expected to be introduced in Switzerland is 2025. 

Germany

In Germany, citizens have been able to use the online function of their ID cards since 2010. An RFID chip in the ID card makes this possible. In 2017, the eID function was added, which allows the ID card to be read by a smartphone as a card reader. In the future, an additional convenient feature will be introduced in Germany; it will allow users to save a fully digital ID card to a wallet on their cell phone, the smart eID.

However, it will probably be a while before the smart eID becomes available to all users throughout Germany - the nationwide rollout has already been postponed several times. After initially targeting 2022, the launch was delayed to 2023. Currently, the process is still in various test phases and even testers can only use it on certain smartphone models. 

Austria

Austria has had a citizen card since 2003, which is, however, being superseded by ID Austria. Citizens have been able to switch to the ID Austria since 2022. This means that eID cards and digital driver's licenses can be presented on a cell phone and documents can be signed digitally. ID Austria meets all the requirements of the GDPR and the national Data Protection Act.

Activating Your eID in the DACH Region

To use the eID function in the DACH region is very simple. Depending on your country, you’ll need the following instructions:  

Implementation Plans in Switzerland

Since the eID has not passed legislation yet in Switzerland, there are currently only plans for its activation. The steps will be as follows:

  1. Download the required app to your smartphone.
  2. Take a photo of your official identification document and a video of your face.
  3. The app will transmit the data to a government authority for verification.
  4. If the data matches the official records, your eID will be sent to your smartphone immediately and saved in the wallet app.

A solution that has been around in Switzerland for quite some time is the SwissID, a digital identity platform developed by the SwissSign Group. It allows citizens to identify themselves securely and easily online and to use various online services, such as logging into government portals, signing contracts or shopping at online stores. SwissID is therefore a type of eID, but not a state-issued one. Incidentally, SwissID uses solutions from PXL Vision for the identification processes.

How eID works in Germany

If you want to use the eID in Germany or save it as a smart eID on your phone in the future, you need to meet certain requirements:

  • An ID card with online ID functionality and an NFC-enabled smartphone: A chip in your ID card and the NFC function of your smartphone are used to transmit data. Simply hold the ID card close to the back of the device, and it will read the data from this short distance.
  • An app: To use the eID on your smartphone, you need to work with an app - the AusweisApp2, which was published by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community (BMI).
  • A personal PIN: Since July 15, 2017, the online ID function has been activated on all ID cards. German citizens automatically receive a five-digit transport PIN by mail, which has to be replaced with a personal, six-digit PIN in the AusweisApp2.

Activation Process of the ID Austria

ID Austria provides Austrian citizens with the option of presenting their ID cards or driver's licenses and submitting digital signatures with their smartphones. In order to access all functions, you need to complete the registration process with a local authority. It is also interesting to note that

  • if your mobile signature has already been registered with an authority, it is possible to transition online as well. Further verification is no longer required in this case.
  • to use your ID Austria, you must be at least 14 years old and install one of two apps - either "Digitales Amt" or "Handy-Signatur".
  • in the future, every citizen will automatically receive an ID Austria when applying for an ID card or passport.
  • ID Austria was designed to be used EU-wide as well. 

Is the eID Secure?

The security of the eID is a function of several factors, including implementation, technology, management, and security measures. Essentially, the eID was developed to make identity verification in digital environments more secure. It typically involves strong encryption and authentication techniques to prevent unauthorized access.

Personal ID data is transmitted via end-to-end encryption only after the personal pin has been entered. It is up to the user to decide whether and with whom the data is shared. The user is informed of whom the data will be sent to in advance.

The eID procedure, for example, has been awarded the highest possible level of trust in accordance with the eIDAS Regulation by the German BSI (Federal Office for Information Security). This should also apply to the smart eID when it is introduced. However, the latter has not yet undergone the respective testing procedure.

Digital ID’s in Other Countries

  • In 2018, Singapore launched the "SingPass" to access more than 2,700 online services at over 800 government agencies and businesses. Already, more than 4.5 million users out of Singapore's 5.6 million population use the app.
  • Sweden has had the "BankID" system since 2003, which has more than 8 million users. It allows for electronic signatures of tax returns, contracts, and credit agreements as well as secure online payments.
  • In Estonia, citizens can apply for an "e-residency" provided by the Estonian government, to use digital services, conduct business, and even participate in parliamentary elections via e-voting without being physically present.
  • India offers the "Aadhaar", a biometric identification number to access all government services. 95% of India's 1.4 billion citizens use this digital ID.
  • In Finland, citizens can use "fi" to identify themselves and access government services and documents online.

 

Conclusion

The eID is not only a practical solution for online identification, but also relies on strong security and multifactor authentication. With an eID, you can identify yourself electronically from anywhere in the world. So far, this type of verification has only been used in a few cases, though.

It will likely take a while until the state or smart eID is truly established. If you look at countries where digitization is further advanced, you'll see that some type of eID is already more prevalent as well. Sooner or later, it will become commonplace everywhere.

That’s why it would be wise for companies to plan ahead and to start thinking now about ways to prepare their verification processes for this future.

At PXL Vision, we are already brainstorming on how to implement verification via eID for different use cases. We think it will be important for companies to be able to offer their customers a choice: Not every customer will know how to use an eID right away. That's why, for now, we will continue to offer additional secure and convenient methods for identity verification, such as the Auto-Ident process.

Is the topic of verification via eID already an issue for you? Contact us for a consultation - we'll be happy to advise you.

 

FAQ
 
Are a digital identity and an eID the same thing?

A digital identity consists of your entire presence online. Every time you create an account and share personal data online, you add to your overall digital presence, i.e. digital identity. An eID is basically an electronic ID card that has been authenticated by an authority and can be used to verify your identity in online transactions.

How can I get an eID?

Requirements for an eID are different in every country, and many countries don’t even offer one yet. But typically, your physical ID card will have some sort of chip or feature that can be read by your smartphone. You will then be able to add your ID card to either a designated app or your phone’s wallet to present it that way for online identification.

Can I travel with an eID?

Enabling people to travel with their eID is a big goal for the future. Since eID’s are not yet internationally aligned, it is not possible to travel with just an eID yet. Even within countries, there are still regional differences. Within the US, for example, some states allow for electronic ID cards when traveling, while others aren’t able to process them yet.


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