Wallets here, wallets there, why a European digital identity wallet?

One of the top accessories we never leave the house without is the wallet – small or big, leather or fabric case – carrying our daily essentials like cash, cards, and other ID documents.

The bifold style of the wallet, as we are familiar with, was designed to hold paper money and was created in the mid-1900s. But the origin came from the ancient Greek Kibisis – the word used to describe the sack carried by the God of commerce Hermes.

It is fascinating how early the Greeks and Romans used original wallets for important items – from notes to coins for currency, or to hold dried food and other personal provisions. Evolving from holding money and food to holding money and smoking accessories and tobacco, the carry-all accessory came in a large variety and styles without losing any functionality. With the introduction of Credit Cards in the 1950s, the design of the wallet changed to keep up with the times: the compartments for money slimmed down while more slots for cards were added.

Identity and ownership

Besides being primarily designed to hold trading money or valuable personal object, the wallet is also the home of something of great value to any human being living: personal identity documents. The document that proves and legitimates our very own existence. In modern times the wallet became the source of value to us: who we are and what we can buy.

What about digital wallets?

The original electronic wallet or mobile wallet was a virtual card holder with a payment component to enable electronic transactions. As our digital life continuously evolves, so does the wallet from a single purpose (payment) to multi-purposes. The most popular version today is a mobile app where we can store credit cards, coupons, travel documents, vaccination certificates, and eventually driver’s licenses.

We have Apple wallet, and Google wallet with usage exploded in recent years. What is missing for a “super wallet”? Identity. The information fundamental to a person’s identity and livelihood, and this gap will be filled by the EU digital identity Wallet regulated by eIDAS 2.0. One place where we can retrieve or get access to our identity cards, driver’s licenses, eHealth card, electronic prescriptions, travel documents, payment cards, graduation certificates, and many more. Pieces of information with legal value, that can be used cross-border within European space no matter the issuance country to identify ourselves to public or private services.

What does the EUDI wallet do for you?

  1. Is a means of identification– the EUDI wallet cannot be activated without the person’s electronic identity issued by the country of residence.
  2. The information cannot be shared with third parties without our explicit consent. The consent can be withdrawn at a later stage if no longer necessary.
  3. We will know for sure with whom we share our data – the wallet will have a section where we can see in time with which public or private organization
  4. We will be able to digitally sign documents with legal value

Is the EUDI Wallet protecting my privacy, is it safe to use?

Privacy and security are always a big concern when we open a webpage or use our smartphones. These aspects are strictly regulated by eIDAS 2.0, with strong mechanisms of enforcement for the wallet providers, service providers, and third parties that need to verify our identity or different pieces of our personal data. We are in control over sharing our data and none of these actors can track or have evidence of where we use the wallet and for what purpose.

Think about going to buy a bottle of wine – we enter in a shop, pick the bottle, then go to the cashier. The shop owner does not know our identity, only that we are allowed to buy alcohol (more than 18 or 21 years old) and is asking for payment. So we chose how to pay (cash or card) and go out of the shop.

How this scenario goes for the digital identity wallet? When we make a purchase we don’t share our name and date of birth with the online shop, that information lives secured within our wallet and we just provided anonymized proof of our age (older than 18/21 years), then click to pay.

We spend our time more in the digital space than in the real world – shopping online, paying bills, applying for loans or mortgages, booking travels, and requesting all sorts of certificates and attestations from public administrations. Most of these interactions are interrupted when it comes to verifying our identity, and additional proofs are requested or even a visit to an office.

Once the eIDAS 2.0 Regulation will enter into force (expected in 2024) and the digital identity wallet will be available,
we will really enhance our online lives and build a safer online world for us.

by Viky Manaila