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  • Thierry Spanjaard

France Digital ID is coming!

A few months ago, when the new French ID card was introduced, many analysts regretted it was not directly associated with a Digital ID program. The second step is actually coming now, as the French government announced the launch of a Digital ID project by the end of this month.

Under this program called “Service de garantie de l’identité numérique” (SGIN - Digital Identity Guarantee Service), French citizens will be able to generate and store certified digital identification documents in a mobile app by scanning their physical Carte Nationale d’Identité Électronique (CNIe) eID card with their NFC smartphone. The SGIN will be based on the biographic data held in the new French ID cards launched in August 2021. The SGIN will allow French citizens to prove their identity in the digital world, and also to have access to dedicated uses, including in the physical world. The system will give access to the 900 private and public online service providers connected to the FranceConnect platform, a government service that allows French citizens to connect seamlessly to public and private services.

This will allow cardholders to be selective as to what data fields they share for any transaction. More specifically, they will be able to generate electronic certificates comprising only the identity attributes, which they consider necessary to transmit to third parties. The project will be run by the Ministry of the Interior (General Secretariat) and the National Agency for Secure Documents (ANTS). “The application allows the user, in particular, to generate electronic certificates comprising only the identity attributes, which he considers necessary to transmit to third parties of his choice,” says the official decree.

According to l’Usine Digitale, the system is developed by Sopra Steria, Atos and a partnership formed by Idemia and Idakto. Atos will be responsible for the development and maintenance of the SGIN and the applications that will allow French people to identify themselves to public services via the FranceConnect portal. Sopra Steria will provide assistance services in the management of the program in terms of technical architecture, security, quality of the user experience and agile project management methods. The Idemia/Idakto consortium will provide software for reading information from the electronic identity documents on which the digital identity is based, such as the CNIe, residence permits or passports.

No decision is made yet on the facial recognition part of the project. The idea is to use facial recognition when signing up when a citizen reads the NFC contents from his/her CNIe and then to perform a face biometric authentication when data are used.

Even if the project looks attractive, France is lagging behind most European countries in this regard. France was among the last member states to implement an electronic ID card, just before it became mandatory under EU regulations. Several EU countries have already launched Digital ID projects. For instance, German citizens are able to save their electronic proof of identity from their German ID card directly onto their smartphone and use that electronic ID function via their smartphones. Belgium is launching a digital wallet for people living in the country to access government services through a single online platform. The Czech Republic plans to introduce digital driver’s licenses by 2023. And, of course, Estonia is ahead with citizens equipped with three forms of eID: Digi-ID (in the form of a smart card), Mobile ID (via a special SIM to be inserted in a smartphone) and Smart ID (an application for smartphones and tablets that does not require a special SIM). These multiple forms of identification can be used to access various services and to digitally sign documents.

These projects are related to the Digital Identity Wallet project supported by the European Commission, which aims at establishing a unified digital identification system in Europe that will allow any official process that requires an identity verification, in any of the 27 EU member countries. Under this project, launched in 2021, EU citizens will have access to an app on their smartphone that will enable them to prove their identity, access services online, share digital documents, or show other details such as age, a medical certificate, prescriptions, driving licenses or professional qualifications. A unique life-long number will be assigned to every EU citizen.

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