Finnish finance ministry drafts digital ID legislation for parliamentary review 

By on 05/09/2022 | Updated on 06/09/2022
An enlarged digitised fingerprint

Finland’s finance ministry has drafted legislation for a national digital ID programme set to be presented to parliament this autumn.

The legislation would allow Finnish citizens to prove their identity via mobile app both online and in person. Uses for the new digital ID system would range from collecting parcels to accessing e-government services.

The legislation includes a second digital ID system for foreign nationals travelling to Finland, which aims to address the country’s talent gap by making it easier for government to process those seeking work in the country. It was developed following concerns raised by Mika Lintilä, the minister of economic affairs, about a shortage of talent in several sectors of the economy.

Maria Nikkilä, director of the finance ministry’s digitalisation unit, said the digital ID app “could be used, for example, by an exchange student planning to come to Finland or a person handling business-related matters with the authorities in Finland to log in to Finnish services”.

Read more: Digital ID – what is it, why is it needed, and how are governments developing it

A public consultation on the plans highlighted fears over data security and the surveillance of citizens. Riitta Partala, director of digital identity at the Finnish Digital Agency, said that the proposed system would maintain user privacy by enabling users to control what information they share and when they identify themselves.

“If you have to prove that you are over 18 years old at the checkout of a shop, you do not have to share your name through a digital ID card if it is not relevant information to share in that situation,” Partala said, as reported by Finnish broadcasting company, YLE.

Read more: Finland finance ministry backs ‘identity trust network’ initiative

International intentions

Finland is one of eight countries in the Digital Government Exchange Digital Identity Working Group, launched earlier this year, which also comprises Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The group has drafted a set of high-level principles to support mutually recognised and interoperable digital ID systems and infrastructure.

The working group has stated that its goal is to “facilitate economic recovery from COVID-19 [and] to support the opening of domestic and international borders”.

Read more: Eight countries set out principles for the future of digital ID

Another member of the group, Canada, recently announced a public consultation on a framework for digital ID.

The digital ID plans are part of the country’s Digital Ambition, published last month. The ‘ambition’ sets out what the federal government called “a clear, long-term strategic vision for the Government of Canada to advance digital service delivery, cyber security, talent recruitment, and privacy”.

Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, said that a unique digital ID would protect Canadians from identity theft and fraud, in addition to delivering faster access to government services.

Read more: Canada to launch public consultation on digital ID framework for federal public services

Many remain sceptical, however. One Global Government Forum reader said: “How can we trust any government to hold so much information on ourselves? George Orwell’s vision is already well alive in China, let’s not take the same path [in Canada].”

Countries that have either implemented digital ID systems or are working on doing so include EstoniaGermany, the UK, and Australia, as well as the EU.

Register now: Canadian government CIO to address AccelerateGov digital transformation conference in Ottawa

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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