19 Feb 2024in ID verification & biometrics

EU Digital Identity Wallet: Exploring Its Current Potential

Henry Patishman

Executive VP, Identity Verification solutions at Regula

The EU Digital Identity Wallet marks a groundbreaking move by the European Union, aiming far beyond Europe's borders towards a universally recognized digital ID system. However, creating a global, seamless, and secure digital identity ecosystem requires more than just ambition; it demands trust and cooperation among nations. And that’s not the only thing missing on the roadmap.

What is the EU Digital Identity Wallet all about?

The EU Digital Identity Wallet is designed to help citizens hold their digital documents, such as an ID card, a mobile driver’s license, a medical prescription, a professional certificate, a travel ticket, etc. It also facilitates access to public and private online services. With the Digital Identity Wallet, one can easily apply for a bank loan, file tax returns, prove their age, rent a car, and so much more—all with full security and protection of their personal data.   

Apart from the end users, organizations will also benefit from this initiative. They will get a reliable tool to authenticate their users, plus be able to facilitate compliance with various regulatory requirements. It may even unveil new business opportunities.

A new IDV framework is needed

As good as it sounds, there is a number of challenges that are yet to be faced. 

The main goal, at least for now, is to consolidate digital identity across EU countries rather than implementing it right away. For example, in order to apply for a digital ID wallet, a user first needs to confirm their identity, which will require using existing identity verification frameworks: eID or eIDAS. 

In reality, according to public data, today only 67% of the 27 EU member states can accept notified eID schemes. And among seven key public services for cross-border users, only 14% offer eIDAS authentication. So, the first step is to bolster the existing IDV frameworks to adapt them to the changing reality.  

The key to smooth and successful implementation of a digital ID wallet lies in strategic partnership with trusted identity verification vendors. Collaboration is crucial to developing secure and reliable processes, while protecting personal data and maintaining the integrity of the identity proofing process. Indeed, with portable identity (which the EU Digital Identity Wallet definitely is) that serves as a universal key to multiple services, it is vital to establish a completely trustworthy digital identity verification workflow so that its results do not raise any suspicions.

How to verify documents to create digital identities

As of today, electronic identity documents are considered to be the most fraud-resilient, since they contain microchips that are hard to counterfeit. That's why electronic documents are only accepted in remote authentication scenarios, such as generating a qualified electronic signature, opening a bank account, etc. 

In the case of the EU Digital Identity Wallet, it is also the electronic document that lies at the core of a person’s verification.  

Accessing chip information typically involves NFC technology built into mobile phones. However, using mobile devices carries risks, as fraudsters can potentially intercept and modify verification results, especially in remote scenarios. So, to be able to verify electronic documents with chips properly and securely, IDV vendors should employ a zero-trust-to-mobile approach, re-verifying data on a server to ensure chip authenticity and data integrity, and applying the same double-check to all document data. 

With all this in mind, it’s really crucial to lay a solid foundation for a unified digital identity wallet across such a large multinational union.

Read also: ID Proofing Threats: A Complete Map of the Known Pitfalls

How to verify digital identities

When it comes to verifying digital identities themselves, in theory, the principles that work for remote verification of physical IDs can also be adapted for digital IDs. 

The main emphasis should be placed on verifying the authenticity of cryptographic signatures and certificates from issuing authorities, since they are the ultimate signs of genuineness that are hard to counterfeit. Also, multiple cross-checks of all the data in the digital identity document will help spot any possible inconsistencies and illegal alterations that indicate fraud. 

The IDV industry and the solutions they offer will certainly evolve and adapt to the new reality of digital IDs, so we’ll be seeing new methods and technologies that will be effective for digital identity verification.

The present and the future of digital identities

For now, digital IDs are only relevant to Europe, not the whole world. Achieving a globally accepted, fully digital ID system in the near future involves significant challenges, including the need for extensive cooperation and trust between nations. But not every country even has electronic identity documents yet.

As we move towards a future where digital identity is the norm, and users increasingly demand mobile identification, this evolution cannot be stopped or slowed down. Digitalization of identity documents is a logical step. Still, it requires much careful preparation.

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