European Digital Identity Bill Heads to Final NegotiationsEuropean Parliament and Council of the EU Set to Engage in Trilogue
The European Parliament on Thursday approved legislation creating a continentwide framework for digital identity that European leaders hope will diminish the role of big tech companies such as Google and Apple.
The European Commission anticipates that Europeans should be able to access all key public services online by 2030 and that 8 in 10 Europeans will use digital identity to access services once the program is fully rolled out.
The proposal, known as the eIDAS Regulation, received a clear majority vote, with 418 lawmakers voting in favor, 103 against and 24 abstaining. The vote sets up the final stage of negotiations between the Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, a step known as the trilogue.
The European Commission proposed the framework in June 2021. The Council, a body of government ministers from member nations, agreed to its own version of a European digital identity wallet in December.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for the framework in 2020 after decrying practices followed by technology providers in handling users' online data. "Every time an app or website asks us to create a new digital identity or to easily log on via a big platform, we have no idea what happens to our data in reality," she said.
The bill approved by Parliament would require very large online platforms - defined as platforms with more than 45 million European users - to accept the European digital identity as a logon credential.
Members of the European Parliament have pushed for additional privacy measures as the bill moved through committees, such as a right of user anonymity for digital services that don't require identification. Digital rights activists in the Parliament also insisted on an option to maintain the contents of a digital wallet wholly on user devices rather than in the cloud.
"Decentralized data storage protects our data from hacks and identity theft," said Patrick Breyer, a member of the German Pirate Party, who negotiated the bill introducing the anonymization.
The proposal approved by the Parliament retains the concept of unique identifiers - a measure that has provoked concerns of government surveillance, but it says member states could create multiple unique and persistent identifiers for individuals for use by particular sectors or relying parties. The Council also says an identifier may consist of a combination of several national and sectoral identifiers.