The EU Digital Identity Wallet

The EU Digital Identity Wallet

Another wallet? Another payment scheme? No, the EU Digital Identity Wallet has a bit of a misleading name but it is not a payment wallet but will be a way how we all will identify ourselves online if its legislative inventors will have their way. At least the English term “wallet” is not as clunky as its German version Brieftasche, which invokes images of old-fashioned purses. In any case, whatever it is called, the question is what’s inside. And that’s what we are going to look at.

What is the EU Digital Identity Wallet?

The EU Digital Identity Wallet is a project of the EU as part of its digital strategy and obliges all member states to offer their citizens a digital identity that is interoperable thus enabling access to public and private services that require identification in every EU member state.

In a brave new world, everyone in the EU should have their data available on a cell phone in such a way that secure and self-sovereign transmission of identity data is possible online. Opening a bank account online, enrolling at university, applying for a parking permit, authorizing a payment – everything should be secure and user-friendly.

What functionalities are planned for the EU ID Wallet?

Legally, the EU Digital Identity Wallet is based on Regulation (EU) 2024/1183, which supplements the eIDAS Regulation with regard to the creation of a European framework for a digital identity. The EU ID Wallet must have a “high” level of security in accordance with the eIDAS Regulation. The stored data must be derived directly from a government-issued identity document (e.g. ID card). The EU ID Wallet is supposed to have several functionalities and is intended for a range of use cases, for example for

  • public services such as applying for birth certificates, medical certificates, notification of a change of address
  • the opening of a bank account
  • the submission of tax returns
  • application to a university in your own country or in another member state
  • Save a doctor’s prescription that can be used anywhere in Europe
  • Age verification
  • Renting a car with a digital driver’s license
  • Checking in at a hotel

In the future, however, the EU ID Wallet shall be able to store even more than just the identity data of its owner but also a driver’s license, professional qualifications, perhaps health insurance data, etc.

Technically, the EU ID Wallet is based on minimum architectural standards agreed by the member states. Providers of EU ID Wallets may be the member states themselves or private companies. The first pilot projects are underway, and it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to strike an appropriate balance between security and user-friendliness.

For many, the brave new world also means the fear of being monitored and spied on. The level of security must therefore be high to take this into account. At the same time, an EU ID Wallet will remain a slow seller if it is not designed to be user-friendly in a way that it truly makes life easier for everyone. Especially in Germany, where citizens are still forced to queue at the post office or make time-consuming video calls, it would be a relief for providers and users if there were a truly functioning digital identity. (The ID card with chip card reader is not!).

The EU ID Wallet should be available everywhere as early as 2026 and, legally at least, the EU is also making its use mandatory on the service provider side. According to the new Money Laundering Regulation, the eIDAS-based EU ID will be one of the possible ways of verifying customer identity and it will be a legal requirement for large platforms to accept the EU ID Wallet as an identification method. The member states will also have to accept the EU ID Wallet as a means of identification, which is likely to be a major task given the level of digitization of the administration in some of the member states (last but not least in Germany).

All that remains is to convince the users.

Whether the convincing has yet been successful is debatable as Yevhenija Parshykova and Anselm Hahn found when doing interviews with passers-by as part of a school internship in the 9th grade:

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