What is France Identity, the new government digital identity application?

The France Identity application, available in a test version for a handful of users, aims to expand its services in the coming months. The goal is to use the biometric ID card to prove your identity online.

Preparing for hospitalization, issuing a power of attorney or opening a bank account: these steps will soon be possible by scanning the chip on your identity card with your smartphone. A way for France, late on the subject, to bring new digital services to the market.

What is the identity of France?

The result of an inter-ministerial program, France Identity, is a mobile application that has been available in early access since Thursday, May 12 in the Play Store, the application store for Android.

It will allow holders of the new National Biometric Identity Card (CNIe), in credit card format and equipped with an electronic chip, to prove their identity more easily on the Internet or during physical procedures, with the possibility of not only disclosing certain information, for example to prove his majority.

France is one of the last European countries to adopt the CNIe. As of the summer of 2021, 4.5 million of these cards have been distributed to date.

The project is the successor to Alicem, a project started in 2013 that wanted to use facial recognition, but that was halted mainly due to the reluctance of the police officer of personal data, the Cnil.

Screenshots of the France Identity . application
Screenshots of the France Identity application © France Identity

What is France Identity used for?

France Identity is to become the first application that will provide a “high” level of guarantee in France in the field of digital identification, according to the reference framework of the European e-IDAS Regulation.

This level is not yet required by any online service, but it should eventually provide access to health data or even the development of fully dematerialized proxies.

In the meantime, France Identity will provide access to France Connect, the portal used today by more than 37 million people to pay their taxes, consult their pension rights or the balance of the points on their driver’s license, and to France Connect+, its version that requires a “substantial” level of guarantee to open an online bank account, for example.

Today, only La Poste’s “digital identity” has received this certification from Anssi, which guarantees the security of information systems, and new private applications are currently being certified.

Another functionality of France Identity, the only one available to date, makes it possible to produce single-use digital IDs, avoiding sending copies of the original document, for example when renting an apartment: one of the most common sources of identity theft.

Screenshots of the France Identity . application
Screenshots of the France Identity application © France Identity

Can we do without our ID?

No, because the data remains on the card.

“I think in 2022 you should completely remove your identity card from your phone” in the way of contactless mobile payments or the Apple wallet in the United States, estimates AFP Marc Nolain, director of the company AriadNext, that this is what Brussels expects with the European digital wallet.

But this possibility of distraction has been postponed for now, as it requires the use of proprietary systems from phone manufacturers, a source familiar with the matter told AFP.

In its current form, “the France Identity application is not very useful”, says Hervé Bonazzi, director of the company Archipels, a joint venture created by La Poste, EDF, Engie and the Caisse des dépôts.

“Nevertheless, it is a necessary and essential document for the future of digital identity in Europe”, which, according to him, should ultimately succeed in “linking different data about you” with the citizen service number, the mutual, certified income, etc. .

Are there privacy risks?

The government says it has learned Alicem’s lessons and has chosen to forgo biometrics and prefer to use a personal code to unlock access to the information on the identity card.

This is sent by certified mail first and additional third-party authentication is required to access the most sensitive services. This time, the Cnil welcomed “very positively” the draft decree published at the end of April.

Use of the application also remains strictly optional and “is not intended to replace alternative modes, paper forms or counter,” the government promises.

“We remain very vigilant here,” notes Bastien Le Querrec, member of the association for the defense of freedoms in the digital age La Quadrature du net, who wants these physical alternatives not to be “discouraging”.

“Through this phenomenon of excessive dematerialization of public services, we are forcing citizens to go through digital identity”, and “who says digital identity says that a file will be created in his name with his photo, date of birth, etc. .” he adds. †

Another risk is that it could “lead to a multiplication of cases where you are asked to prove your identity”.

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