Building trust in multiple eID solutions: The Scandinavian challenge.

by Lasse Nielsen (City of Aarhus)

As Europe progresses towards a future where citizens choose between potentially multiple eID solutions in each country, how can trust be maintained?

Scandinavian countries have well-established and widely used national eID schemes. However, EU initiatives, such as the European Digital Wallet and the broader Digital Single Market strategy, may influence the adoption of multiple eID solutions, fostering interoperability between national schemes.

Nevertheless, the road towards a future where citizens can choose between multiple eID solutions – and still have access to all the same public and private services – seems miles long. In Denmark, at least two major factors challenge the prospect of a future where citizens can choose between multiple eID solutions. These challenges even seem to be intertwined.

The first challenge arises around the legislative framework needed to adopt multiple eID solutions. The Danish national eID scheme, MitID, is regulated and validated by a solution-specific law. Therefore, a whole new legislative framework would be needed to secure inclusion of other eID solutions like IMPULSE. In fact, the eID market needs liberalisation to ensure adoption of multiple eID solutions.

The second major challenge in achieving a future with multiple eID solutions in Scandinavian countries is the needed public acceptance and trust in new solutions. Ensuring that citizens understand the benefits and security of such systems is essential. Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries are known to have high degrees of trust in public authorities. This also applies to the digital sphere. On the other hand, this trust can also easily break if new eID solutions prove insecure and experience data leaks, etc.

Aarhus pilot study

In the latest pilot of the Aarhus case study, IMPULSE test users especially pointed to the fact that public verification is essential for them to potentially trust new private eID solutions. Almost all users would trust a solution verified by the Agency for Digital Government while many users said they would trust a solution verified by the EU Commission. Some sort of public verification, therefore, seems to be crucial if citizens are to actually adopt to new possible eID solutions.

Test users generally expressed positivity towards new solutions like IMPULSE, but many also harboured doubts regarding the necessity of these innovations, when MitID – and before that NemID – is already well-functioning for a large majority of the population. And to add further to the trouble, a large majority of test user were not willing to pay anything to use alternative eID solutions. The questioned need for new solutions and the non-willingness to pay for new solutions, make a hard case for new solutions to enter the mature Scandinavian market.

The benefits of multiple solutions

On the other hand, alternative solutions offer new opportunities to tailor eID solutions to individual preferences and needs that are currently not being met by MitID. Several groups of either vulnerable or disabled citizens’ groups find it difficult – or not possible at all – to use MitID in their daily life. New eID solutions like IMPULSE, therefore, offer alternative ways for these citizens to access public self-services, but also private services.

In March of 2023, the City of Aarhus, in collaboration with our esteemed Nordic IMPULSE partners in Reykjavik and LUT, convened an online workshop. During this event, Danish associations representing a spectrum of disabilities enthusiastically voiced their interest in the potential of new eID solutions centred around facial recognition technology. Within our municipal network in Aarhus, we have periodically encountered similar sentiments. Nevertheless, a substantial amount of effort and dedication is still required to ensure that all individuals with disabilities and vulnerable segments of the population genuinely feel embraced and enticed by these innovative solutions.

Trust is hard to build – easy to break

Building trust in eID solutions is a complex endeavour, and maintaining that trust is paramount in the digital landscape. While Scandinavia has a solid foundation of trust in public authorities, including their digital initiatives, this trust can be fragile when it comes to innovative eID solutions. Trust is hard-won but easily lost, particularly in a world where data breaches and security lapses can erode confidence swiftly. For the vision of multiple eID solutions to become a reality, it is imperative that these solutions not only meet stringent security standards but also effectively communicate their benefits to the public. Public acceptance and trust are pivotal in the adoption of new eID systems. Ensuring that citizens understand the advantages and robust security measures these systems offer is vital. However, it is equally crucial for these eID solutions to live up to their promises, as any security breaches or data leaks would swiftly undermine the trust that is so essential in this digital transformation. As Scandinavian countries contemplate the introduction of multiple eID solutions, they must tread carefully to maintain and enhance the trust of their citizens in digital identity systems.