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EU 'digital wallet' aims for easier, more secure cross-border identity checks

European citizens will be able to use new digital ID to prove their identity to access public and private services across the bloc.

The EU announced its digital ID plans on Thursday.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The EU announced plans on Thursday to allow European citizens to prove their identities and share electronic documents using a new Digital Identity wallet stored on their phone. With these digital wallets, Europeans will be able to link their national digital identities to their driving licenses, diplomas, medical prescriptions and bank accounts, to prove who they are without having to share sensitive information directly with third parties.

"The European digital identity will enable us to do in any Member State as we do at home without any extra cost and fewer hurdles," said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president for a Europe fit for the digital age, in a statement. "This is a unique opportunity to take us all further into experiencing what it means to live in Europe, and to be European."

Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton added in his own statement that the wallet would allow European companies to offer a wide range of new services to users due to the secure and trusted nature of the technology.

Vestager and Breton explained that the ID is designed to make it easier for Europeans to do things such as renting a flat, hiring a car, submitting a tax return or opening a bank account outside of their home country, or enrolling at a European university. It will allow them to do this in a way that's transparent and secure and won't mean they need to unsafely share any sensitive personal data.

Putting people in control of the data they share is a key aspect of the digital wallet proposal, along with ensuring wallets are available to everyone in Europe who wants one and making sure they're widely usable. Member states will be obliged to offer the wallet to their citizens and residents at the national level, and very large platforms will be required to accept the ID if users want to prove their identity or age.

The European Commission said that it hopes to agree how to implement its proposed Digital Identity Framework by September 2022, with pilot projects taking place thereafter.