By Masha Borak
After a private initiative to establish a digital identity was shot down by voters in 2021, Switzerland is opting for a new state-run digital identity which could be launched as early as 2026.
The news of the new self-sovereign digital ID was announced on Wednesday after the Swiss Federal Council adopted a new law governing the scheme, the Federal Act on Electronic Identity Credentials and Other Electronic Credentials (BGEID), also known as the E-ID Act.
The E-ID Act comes two-and-a-half years after Swiss residents voted against a law governing a proposed electronic identity system that would be controlled by the state but provided mainly by private companies. The law was rejected mainly out of fears that private businesses could misuse personal information.
Announcing the new digital ID scheme, Justice Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider told local media on Wednesday that the “the solution is 100 percent state-run,” news outlet SwissInfo reports. “We will do everything we can to protect the e-ID,” she says.
The E-ID Act promises not only that the digital ID will be issued by the Swiss Confederation but that it will provide high levels of data protection.
The government says the ID will follow the principles of self-sovereign identity, privacy by design, data minimization and decentralized data storage. It is only stored on the smartphone while the user determines when and where it can be used. To ensure data minimization, if someone requests more e-ID data than is necessary in a specific case, there will be a public notice, the government explains in a statement.
The scheme will be free of charge and voluntary. The ID will be available to Swiss citizens and foreign residents with a work permit, The Local reports. The government has earmarked 182 million Swiss francs (US$206.1 million) for developing the project and pilots from 2023 to 2028. The operating costs from 2029 are estimated at around 25 million Swiss francs ($28.3 million) a year.
Companies are already preparing for the arrival of the new self-sovereign e-ID scheme. Last week, Procivis, a subsidiary of Swiss digital documents provider Orell Füssli, announced a decentralized digital ID software service for government-issued digital IDs.
The digital ID will store documents such as confirmation of residence, business register extracts, diplomas, tickets or membership cards as digital credentials on a smartphone. Anyone who wants an e-ID can download a government-provided app on their smartphone, scan a Swiss-issued ID document with a camera and upload a photograph which will be cross-checked by the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol).
Switzerland also has other digital ID schemes, such as the SwissID, which has been run by Swiss Post since 2017. The platform claims to offer access to 200 online service applications offered by Swiss companies and public authorities, including electronic patient records.
Source: Biometric Update
Masha Borak is a technology journalist. Her work has appeared in Wired, Business Insider, Rest of World, and other media outlets. Previously she reported for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Reach out to her at email@example.com.
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