After over 10 years of the EU eSignature Directive, and a lot of effort across the community of digital trust experts, eIDAS (the new e‐Trust Services regulation) is slowly emerging from its gestation and is about to become a major driver for digital growth in Europe.
What areas will be covered by eIDAS?
Some of the more important areas are:
e‐ID: Governments may ‘notify’ which local eIDs that they are happy to accept in their own e‐Government services provision and at which Assurance Levels. These must then be accepted by similar services (with similar Assurance Levels) in every Member State. Server‐ based e‐IDs will now be easier to accept.
e‐Signatures: The eSignature Directive will be the base of eIDAS, but will crucially be extended to remote server‐centric signing which will assist with signing portals and reduces the need for smartcards and associated hardware.
Company Seals: Now companies will be able to sign corporately rather than individuals within a company.
Notarisation: Notaries will now be able to time‐stamp documents and other objects using their digital signatures.
Although eIDAS is aimed towards e‐Government services, many of these features are likely to be utilised in the B2B and B2C domains.
Why am I confident that eIDAS will be a “Game Changer”?
A more mature market: In the last 10 years, there has been a growing acceptance of the use of digital documents in everyday commerce. For example, many invoices are tendered electronically and generally accepted by the public although they are not digitally signed and not tamperproof. There is also a trend for central and government services to push citizens towards digital channels and this will inevitably result in the need to submit documents and evidence digitally. This may well need to become free from repudiation risks as criminals begin to understand the weakness of current procedures.
Greater compliance demands: The trend towards greater regulatory compliance in many sectors has led to a need to reduce risk around liability, repudiation and content certainty. This is especially the case when considering any future forensic investigations into conduct and actions. eIDAS directly addresses many of these issues.
The drive towards Cost Savings: In every sector of society across Europe, there is a constant drive to reduce costs. Even traditionally buoyant sectors are still suffering from the effects of recession. Digital channels greatly reduce costs and supporting methodologies need to be adopted. A “level playing field” for Trust across the entire EU builds confidence and encourages growth and economies of scale.
Wider bandwidth / reduced latencies: The time that it takes to validate and process digital signatures, and the lack of connectivity has been a major disincentive to the use of digital technologies in the past. Today, bandwidth, connectivity and processor power are capable of processing and communicating at speeds which are at an acceptable level for users.
It is Regulation NOT Directive: eIDAS is a regulation. It was a not obligatory to adopt the eSignature in any Member State. However, as an EU regulation, eIDAS automatically becomes part of each Member State’s law and so observance is assured.
When will eIDAS start making a difference?
eIDAS secondary legislation – the fine details – will be ready by July 2016, so one can expect take up to commence about that time, with full implementation in each Member State well before 2020, when the real impact of eIDAS will start to be felt and the Digital Economy will step up a gear.
Are there any major issues that need to be addressed?
In line with any good law, eIDAS tries not to mention specific technologies, any of which may become outdated. However, mobile technologies are expected to be key to digital interaction and identity assertion in the near/middle future, but they are barely mentioned. Therefore great care needs to be taken in finalising the secondary legislation and so avoiding any restrictions which might preclude the use of mobile devices.
All the indications are that, before 2020, the eIDAS Regulations will boost the transition of the entire EU from a 20th Century traditional economy to a 21st Century Digital Economy. However, only time will tell.