EU to overhaul e-signatures law

Rules on e-identities to be updated too

The European Union is to overhaul its e-signatures and e-identity rules, the European Commission announced on Monday.

The new proposals would make it obligatory for E.U. countries to recognize the validity of e-identity cards from other member nations. It would also require member states to set up independent supervisory bodies to evaluate e-trust, or verification technology, for e-signature and website authentication providers.

Some recent media reports have suggested that the new proposals would create a mandatory electronic ID system for all citizens of the E.U. -- currently only Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have official national e-identities -- but Commission sources dismissed the reports as scaremongering.

However, Commission, the E.U.'s executive and regulatory body, is aware that the proposals may face opposition in the European Parliament and from some civil liberty groups due to fears about identity theft and virtual fraud, sources said. Officials say it is essential that security mechanisms are put in place to guarantee the adoption of new electronic services.

The second piece of legislation relates to so called e-trust matters. A directive was adopted in 1999 to establish a common framework for electronic signatures, but technology has come a long way and the law needs to be updated, said the Commission's Digital Agenda spokesman Ryan Heath.

The regulation aims to create interoperability between E.U. member states for trust services like time stamping, electronic seals and delivery and website authentication. Internal Commission documents highlight technological neutrality as one of the underlying principles.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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