European e-identity plan to be unveiled this month

European e-identity plan to be unveiled this month

Summary: The European Commission is set to lay out proposals for a EU-wide e-ID scheme, it has revealed as it outlined a pan-European strategy aimed at protecting children from harmful online content

TOPICS: Government UK

Authorities in Europe are ready to lay out plans to introduce an electronic identity system across Europe, with the proposals to be unveiled at the end of this month.

EU flags

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has outlined a proposal to bring in an electronic identity system across the EU.

On Wednesday, the European Commission published a strategy document aimed at setting up systems to protect children online. In the document (PDF) — but not in the accompanying press release nor the citizens' summary — the Commission mentioned that it will soon propose a "pan-European framework for electronic authentication".

A spokesman for digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said the Commission "will have full e-ID proposals on 30 May".

The document, entitled European Strategy for a Better Internet for Children, gives a rough outline of proposals to harmonise protections across member states for children using online services. It contains many suggestions for the increased use of age classification, as well as the inclusion of "efficient" parental controls "on any type of device and for any type of content, including user-generated content".

The age classification scheme, which is meant to feed into new data protection rules that take specific account of children's privacy and 'right to be forgotten', will largely be a matter of industry self-regulation. However, the language of the e-ID clause suggested that one element will be mandatory.

"The Commission... intends to propose in 2012 a pan-European framework for electronic authentication that will enable the use of personal attributes (age in particular) to ensure compliance with the age provisions of the proposed data protection regulation," the Commission said in the document, adding that member states should "ensure the implementation of EU legislation in this field at national level".

As part of this, the industry will be expected to introduce "technical means" of electronic identification and authentication, it noted.

The launch of the strategy follows Kroes's push in November to strengthen internet security in the EU, which laid the ground for the child protection proposals. It also outlined legal measures to make it easier for people to use a single e-ID for online services across borders, which would underpin a move toward a pan-European framework for electronic identification, authentication and signature (Pefias) framework.

Fuzzy areas

Digital rights campaigner Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, told ZDNet UK that the idea of an electronic ID scheme was not in itself bad, but he is keen to know the scope of the programme.

"There are discussions elsewhere about identity management online — the UK is looking at this," Killock said. "That in itself isn't a terrible thing, although there may be fuzzy areas where you're having to supply your identity to sites that are discursive."

"If it's aimed at the end services, then there's possibly something in what they are saying, but the devil is in the detail," he added.

Killock also gave a tentative welcome to the idea of putting parental controls on devices such as smartphones or tablets, "as the calls we're hearing for content filtering at network level is much more dangerous". However, he added that parental control technologies are "fallible".

The strategy document also said the Commission will adopt a pan-EU "initiative on notice-and-takedown procedures" for websites. This will extend not only to child sexual abuse images, but to "all categories of illegal content".

Questions remain as to whether the e-ID system will have uses beyond age classification, and whether every citizen will be required to use the system, with the implications this has for online anonymity. In addition, the document did not describe what technology is needed to apply parental controls to any type of device and which parts of industry are expected to implement this, and whether the harmonised notice-and-takedown procedures will apply to material that breaches copyright. The Commission had not replied to a request for clarification on these questions at the time of writing.

Topic: Government UK

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The Internet is a wonderful thing that gives people freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But the people in power see it as a threat. They will do everything they can to control people and use the excuses of "protect the children", "fighting organised crime" and "defeat terrorism" to remove your rights, to create excuses to monitor and track you. To snoop on your correspondence. To deny normal people the right to privacy.
  • I agree with the previous commenter wholeheartedly. I couldn't say it better myself. This is very 'Big Brother'. And while I agree with protecting children and keeping them safe (choking off avenues for pedophiles to contact actual children, for instance), trying to censor everything kids look at is going to be counter productive. Maybe the next few generations will be collectively smart enough to vote young, progressive people with a more thorough understanding of the internet into office.
  • e-Identity

    e-Identity is not about governmental control! It determines who you are, it makes it irrevocable ( if the highest level is used). Our advantage is that I can see who made the document, I can send it encrypted if needed, I can authorize myself or others based upon their e-Identity.
    Example: If in a shop and I want to buy alcohol, if necessary a passport can be asked. This is privacy sensitive information and can be misused. If you use a e-Identity on a card, you can prove you are older than 18 ( a green light appears) without exposing all your information. This is done by inserting your card, use your finger and presto your credential that you are older than 18 is checked.
    One remark, the right technology for biometry has to be used. I do not want the biometry on the card or in a database were I do not have control. I want to be in control, in the driver’s seat.
    The person itself is in control, the person itself is responsible. The information in the card is confidential and cannot be misused.
    So again, I dont see what it has to do with big brother. It's about you proving your identity to me, so I can judge to see if I want to read your message. A message, document, transaction without it, is being refused.