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Belgium and Hungary Launch Controversial Digital IDs, Vaccine Passport, Ahead of EU Regulations

Published: May 20, 2024 | Print Friendly and PDF
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Belgium and Hungary are leading the way in launching digital ID wallets ahead of EU’s eIDAS (“electronic identification and trust services”) 2.0 regulation and EUDI Wallet coming into force later this month.

In Belgium, the MyGov.be app, covering all of the country’s federal public services, was launched on Tuesday, with the government promoting the digital identity as “simplifying” the use of its services, and “making life easier.”

In other words, the authorities there are playing the convenience card – while downplaying the risks that come with this type of centralization of people’s identities.

The wallet, via “eBox” mailbox, gives access to government-issued documents, as well as 683 services, identity data, Covid vaccination records, and more.

However, the success of the scheme is by no means guaranteed – on the one hand it is not mandatory, so people are free to decide not to use it.

Judging by an opinion poll Deloitte carried out last year, “71 percent of Belgians do not want a digital ID on their phone,” reports say, adding that the same survey showed that 79 percent “do not want a mobile driver’s license, while half refuse to fully digitize their IDs.”

“Ease of use” is also how digital ID is pushed in Hungary, where the appropriate app will be made available for download as soon as this week, while the service will be fully operational from September.

Enthusiastic reports about this development describe the digital ID program as “innovative,” “handy” and “saving costs.”

At the same time, putting all of a person’s data in one place and storing it in the cloud is advertised as something positive, instead of what opponents consider as scary – from the security standpoint alone.

The operation is centralized via Hungary’s Digital Citizenship Program. Wallet users will have all their administrative, etc., documents in that one place, plus a digital mailbox, their vaccine passport, and can rely on a pan-EU electronic signature, while electric payments will be “fully integrated.”

Hungary’s digital identity scheme uses biometric data obtained through facial recognition to match a user’s face “against a government database.”

Meanwhile, some security researchers in other EU countries are warning that as many as 75 percent of what are described as high-risk organizations (healthcare, banking, air travel…) “do not use the strongest verification method.”

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