Electronic ID card technology is widely utilized in the European Union today. However, the United States is far behind the EU in the adoption of these smart card IDs. Electronic identity cards, or eIDs, contain enhanced information about the individual. Spain was the first EU country to widely adopt the eID card, which they called the DNI. At last count, over 32 EU countries have adopted an eID card.
These identification cards may contain bank information, health information, driving credentials, security credentials or additional information about the carrier’s identity. The cards contain a small computer chip that stores the individual’s data. However, the US has not been as quick as the EU in allowing the eIDs to prevail.
So, Why Are We Lacking?
One reason the US is so far behind the EU in the adoption of such cards is the possibility of theft of information. People who reside in the US experience a great deal of theft of information from traditional computer routes, such as using the Internet. Credit card information, as well as other data is regularly stolen and used via traditional methods.
Identity theft has become a rampant crime in the US. Therefore, individuals living in the US are much more reluctant to allow their personal and/or financial information to be stored in yet another way that may be stolen. Many proponents of the cards in the EU state that eIDs actually prevent identity theft. This assertion would need to be demonstrated to the American public for wide adoption of an eID program.
Another reason why US residents are far more critical of eIDs than their EU counterparts is that many people consider the cards too far reaching into an individual’s personal data. In other words, to have personal data stored on a card that may be accessed by government entities or others, is distasteful to many Americans.
Why are eIDs Beneficial?
However, an eID card does present many possibilities. Though some Americans might be willing to try an eID as a pilot program, or if they were able to opt out if there were issues with the program, resistance to eIDs may be a more of a cultural issue in the US.
In one study published by Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) entitled “eID Projects, From Capability to Use,” Spagnoletti, Italy and Freh found that Anglo-American populations (US, Canada and Australia) are generally more resistant to eID implementation than populations in Asian countries, Middle Eastern regions and EU countries.
Even EU countries experience some difficulties with using eIDs. For example, the EU version of the eID card is not a one size fits all card for all countries. Each country distributes its own version of the eID card. Years after the initial adoption of the eIDs, Europeans are still attempting to work out the kinks when it comes to using their cards across country borders.
The Core Reason
American individuals tend to be more sensitive to anything that would be labeled as a “national” ID card. Each of the 50 states may attempt to implement an eID card system, but then the US would have issues similar to the EU’s cross border problems.
Whether the US will adopt an eID card system is yet to be seen. Americans would need to feel that their personal data is safe and secure, and that there are benefits to having an eID card system. Otherwise, Americans will continue to be reluctant to the idea of having an eID program or a national ID system.