The European Commission has launched a public consultation on electronic signatures and identification as it bids to boost e-business and e-commerce across the continent.
Currently, difficulties in verifying people's identities and signatures are a significant factor holding back the development of the EU's online economy, says the Commission.
Feedback from the consultation - which runs until 15 April - will contribute to a review of the existing eSignature Directive and the preparation of a planned initiative on mutual recognition of electronic identification and authentication.
Neelie Kroes, VP, digital agenda, EC, says: "I welcome everybody's views on how we can best verify people's identities and signatures when we buy, sell or undertake administrative procedures online that need to be highly secure. I want to help all Europeans get online without feeling that they will fall victim to data frauds or scams."
The body is already behind a large scale pilot project called "Stork" (Secure idenTity acrOss boRders linKed) to enable cross-border recognition of eID systems and easy access to public services in 18 European countries.
Specifically, the Commission is asking for thoughts on:
- citizens' and businesses' expectations of EU rules on electronic signatures, identification and authentication. In particular, the general usefulness of e-signatures and eID user and specific business sector needs, socio-economic benefits, fields of application, potential additional trust-building services, mobile usage and the legal recognition of electronic consent by clicking "I accept"
- the ICT sector's view on how e-signatures can be best tailored to face the forthcoming challenges triggered by technological progress, asking for views on existing barriers, security requirements, potential grading of security levels, and expectations on standardisation
- the common set of principles which should guide the mutual recognition of e-identification and e-authentication in Europe, as well as considerations for economies of scale by allowing national systems, benefiting users across EU borders, and cross-sector uses in the public and private sectors
- the potential contribution of research and innovation to the development of new e-authentication, such as alternatives to Public Key Infrastructure currently in use for the easy management of electronic signatures, and eID-cards.