What is eIDAS?
eIDAS stands for electronic identification, authentication and trust services. It's a European Union (EU) regulation designed to ensure that up-to-date, internationally admissible standards of digital identity and trust verification and validation are in place.
When was it introduced?
It came into force in September 2014, replacing the Electronic Signatures Directive.
eIDAS has been applied in phases since July 2016 and will be fully operational from 29 September 2018.
From that date, every EU citizen with a notified national identification scheme (for example, a national identity card) can use it to identify and/or authenticate themselves to access public services available in other EU countries where similar eIDs exist.
Why is it needed?
Interactions between people and businesses are increasingly through digital channels that are largely oblivious to national frontiers.
Moreover, aging laws often struggle to stay relevant to technological change; in the EU particularly, unaligned member state legal frameworks have long been recognized as inhibiting cross-border business growth, administrative efficiency, and citizen entitlements.
Trust is the driving factor here. The bodies behind eIDAS believe a lack of trust in online product and service provision holds back the economic potential for consumers and suppliers.
Can you give an example of how it works?
In a pilot project, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands successfully connected their electronic identification and authentication infrastructure, making it possible to use Austrian and German eIDs to access Dutch online public services.
For example, an Austrian driver fined for speeding in the Netherlands could use their eID to access detailed information about their penalty in their native language, and choose to pay or challenge the fine.
What do EU countries have to do to comply with eIDAS?
States must mutually recognize approved eID and trust services, with national legal frameworks statutorily required to permit and facilitate EU citizens' intent to use their national eID with public and commercial services across frontiers.
For the first time within the EU, qualified eSignatures, electronic seals, time stamps, electronic registered delivery services, and website authentication certificates will hold legal status parity with traditional paper-based equivalents.
eIDAS does not affect the validity of existing formats, nor does it specify technical standards for the eID and trust services technology.
However, suppliers of products and services that comply with eIDAS have to be approved as Trust Service Providers (TSPs) by their respective national supervisory bodies.
How does eIDAS benefit businesses?
There are numerous benefits for businesses that already have partners and customers within the EU. Simplified procedures for international deals should result in reduced costs, as contractual arrangements between two or more parties in disparate EU states require less form-filling.
There should also be faster processing of contracts, delivery documents, and payments due to commonly admissible approvals signoff.
Applications to trade in other EU markets are expected to be made easier – good news for SMEs that have been beset by red tape as they have expanded beyond their home countries.
Moreover, eIDAS can boost customer acquisition by making it more straightforward to validate the identity of EU citizens, thereby shrinking administrative overheads for new account set-ups, and (in theory) making credit rating checks more simple. This is likely to benefit sectors such as fintech, where making the opening of new accounts easier is a vital differentiator to traditional banks, for example.
Equally, eIDAS's provision for qualified certificates for website authentication, once established, will bolster consumer confidence when purchasing products and services from online traders registered to foreign EU states.
How will eIDAS change our digital lives?
As it rolls out, eIDAS will join a range of other eID trends that are profoundly transforming the relationship between citizen and service providers. Cumulatively, these developments will call upon us to pay greater attention to the way the eID ethos shapes our lives. And, as eIDAS allows for the co-existence of multiple identification schemes with different or equivalent assurance levels within the same country, there may be more types of eID heading our way.
Related information: Fit for eIDAS ? (Infographic)