17 Jun 2020

Europe’s Digital Verification Opportunity

William Echikson

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Europe should move fast to allow the private sector to leverage its public digital verification system, especially in view of the changes to communication brought about by the Covid-19 crisis, concludes this new study.

Identity verification remains a time-consuming, arduous process in Europe, often requiring paper documentation and a myriad of certificates guaranteeing credentials. Sometimes, a physical face to face meeting is also needed.

This report shows how the EU has constructed a unique cross-border electronic identification infrastructure with digitally linked verification (eID) and interoperable electronic authentication (eIDAS). These advances make Europe the first and only region in the world where digital ID and verification are provided securely and in a legally enforceable manner.

But Europe’s impressive digital verification system was mainly designed to ease citizen-government interactions. On average, citizens have only one or two interactions a year with their authorities. Private-sector use will therefore be key to it reaching its potential.

Although reliance on digital verification raises understandable fears about increased government and corporate surveillance, the report argues that new technologies allow strong privacy protection while ensuring at-distance accuracy. To achieve this goal, Europe needs to fill in certain in GDPR data protection rules concerning digital verification, and encourage the adoption of privacy-protecting technologies such as blockchain.