What is France Identity, the new government digital identity application

Available in a test version for a handful of users, the France Identity application is intended to expand its services in the coming months. The goal is to use the biometric ID card to prove one’s identity online.

Preparing for hospitalization, making 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 out new digital services.

What is France Identity?

Fruit of an interministerial program, France Identity is a mobile application available since Thursday, May 12 in early access on the Play Storethe 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 more easily prove their identity on the internet or during physical procedures, with the possibility of not disclosing only certain information, for example to prove his majority.

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

The project succeeds Alicem, a project initiated in 2013 which planned to use facial recognition, but which was abandoned following in particular the reluctance of the policeman 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 must become the first application which will provide in France a “high” level of guarantee in terms 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 allow access to health data or even the development of fully dematerialized power of attorney.

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 points on their license. to drive, and to France Connect+, its version which requires a “substantial” level of guarantee to, for example, open an online bank account.

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 in the process of being certified.

Another functionality of France Identity, the only one available to date, makes it possible to produce single-use digital proofs of identity making it possible to avoid 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 stored in the card.

“I think that in 2022, you have to manage to derive your identity card entirely from your phone” in the manner of contactless mobile payments or the Apple wallet in the United States, estimates with AFP Marc Nolain, director of the company AriadNext, specifying that this is what is expected by Brussels with the European digital wallet.

But this possibility of derivation has for the moment been postponed, because it requires the use of proprietary systems from telephone manufacturers, a source familiar with the matter told AFP.

In its current format, “the France Identity application is not very useful”, considers 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, must ultimately succeed in “making the link between different data concerning you” with the social security number, the mutual, certified income, etc.

Are there any privacy risks?

The government says it has learned the lessons of Alicem, and has chosen to dispense with biometrics, in favor of using a personal code to unlock access to the information contained in the identity card.

This will first be sent by registered mail, and additional third-party verification will be required to access the most sensitive services. The Cnil this time welcomed “very favorably” the draft decree, published at the end of April.

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

“This is where we remain very vigilant”, 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 “disincentive”.

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

Another risk, it could “lead to a multiplication of cases where you will be asked to prove your identity”.

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