E-Perso: The identity card comes in three versions on the smartphone

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Too complicated, forgot your PIN, no need – there are many reasons for not using the electronic ID card. Just six percent of all Germans have ever used the card online, according to the D21 initiative’s e-government monitor.

For some time now, the federal government has therefore been pursuing the plan to bring the E-Perso to smartphones and thereby simplify use. It is now clear that she is planning no fewer than three digital ID card variants: firstly, the Smart-eID, which can fully replace the E-Perso, secondly, a version of the Smart-eID with a lower level of security, and thirdly, the Basic-ID, which only has a small amount has in common with the E-Perso and which could be used, for example, for hotel check-in and car rental.

More from c't magazine

More from c't magazine

More from c't magazine

More from c't magazine

The Smart-eID should start after some delays in December, as the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) announced in September. Citizens should then be able to store the data on their identity card in the Secure Element, a security chip that is found in some smartphones. Then the mobile phone and the “AusweisApp2” alone should be sufficient for identification in the network. So far, you have to read out the ID every time via NFC.

The Smart-eID should be usable wherever the E-Perso also works. The downside of the coin is that it only runs on a few smartphones so far. Because the manufacturers have to have their models certified by the Federal Office for Information Security.

So far, only Samsung has done this – and exclusively for the Galaxy S20 series. Younger high-end devices such as the S21 and Note20 should follow soon, as Samsung announced on request. In the future, the cheaper Galaxy A series will also be equipped with a certified chip. Older Samsung models that already have a Secure Element should also be made compatible with a software update. The federal government is holding talks with other manufacturers, but has not yet announced any further commitments.

In order to still reach more users, the BMI is also working on a solution that does not require a security chip and stores the ID information encrypted in the normal smartphone memory – variant number two. This should start in the first half of 2022 and be compatible with almost all smartphones. This variant would probably not be approved for applications with high security requirements such as student loan applications.

In addition to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Chancellery is also concerned with digital identities: together with private service providers, it launched the “ID Wallet” app, including a digital driver’s license, at the end of September. The start failed quite spectacularly after criticism from users and security experts and the service provider Digital Enabling commissioned by the federal government withdrew the app from the Google and Apple stores. But he wants to bring a new version back to the app stores in a few weeks.

The app should then be able to read out the E-Perso and save information from it as a “basic ID” – Perso variant number three. As with the Smart-eID, the ID data should only be on the smartphone and not be stored centrally.

Behind the wallet app is a completely new infrastructure that is not compatible with the E-Perso and the Smart eID: A blockchain or a decentralized network (“Distributed Ledger”) serves as an anchor of trust. The issuers of evidence (as in the case of the driver’s license, the Federal Motor Transport Authority) should store test data in the network. Auditors (e.g. rental car or car sharing providers) should be able to view the data there. The federal government’s hope is that this new system will be more popular with companies than the E-Perso infrastructure.

From a legal point of view, the basic ID is not yet an official ID and for the time being can only be used where the legislator does not require an e-personal or smart eID, for example with car sharing or rental car providers. In the future, citizens should be able to save all kinds of evidence in the wallet app on all common smartphones – in addition to driver’s license and ID, for example, also a birth certificate or high school diploma.

Hopefully, users will then have an overview of which digital ID they can use where.

In c’t 21/2021 we took a closer look at mini-PCs for (almost) every purpose. They take up little space and can be installed inconspicuously. However, if you want an individual configuration or want to upgrade later, you have to make targeted purchases. Also in the booklet: Your way to the individual cloud server, online photo storage for Android and iOS in the test and accessibility with Alexa. You will find issue 21/2021 from September 24th in Heise shop and at the well-stocked newspaper kiosk.


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