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EU lawmakers support EU-wide digital wallet

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Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have adopted draft legislation meant to pave the way for implementing an EU digital ID wallet.

Planned to cover the entire bloc, the scheme is an update to the European digital identity framework (eID) and is described by the European Parliament (EP) as an “all-in-one” digital identity.

The identification data and electronic certificates will be used online and offline to access public and private services and goods.

The new digital wallet will depend on creating interoperability between various national programs, and will provide online identification and authentication services to citizens, who the EP says will not rely on commercial providers.

That means a centralized solution will be run by government(s) and the digital wallet will contain data from citizens pertaining to their personal and professional lives: personal credentials, contacts, as well as social, financial, and medical information.

“Digital identity is no longer just a nice-to-have feature, but a new driver of civic engagement and social empowerment and a tool for an inclusive digital Europe,” an EP statement quoted rapporteur Romana Jerkovic.

Some of the amendments to the original draft introduce the ability of the wallet to read and verify electronic documents, and peer-to-peer interactions. Others speak about strengthening privacy and security, and about registering all transactions “to ensure third parties are held accountable.”

The approval of the scheme to update eID in this way, came in a vote taken by European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, with 55 MEPs voting in favor, 8 against, and 2 abstained.

Another vote with almost identical results (57-7-3) approved the proposal to go into inter-institutional negotiations, with EP’s plenary session scheduled for mid-March expected to formally approve it.

Those behind the new EU digital wallet say it will be voluntary to use, and promise that steps will be taken so that those who choose not to sign up to the scheme are not discriminated against.

The EP said that the proposal contains provisions allowing citizens to request, obtain, store, combine and use personal ID data and electronic certificates in a secure manner.

As for why the EU needs an updated eID, the EP said that public and private services have increasingly been moving online, particularly when it comes to payment systems.

But, notes the statement, “according to the (EU) Commission, this convenience comes at the cost of loss of control over personal data, while these solutions are disconnected from a verified physical identity, which makes fraud and cybersecurity threats more difficult to mitigate.”

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