eID – Switzerland needs to catch up

Compared with the European Union, Switzerland is lagging behind in terms of dissemination of the eID as no corresponding legal basis exists yet. However, the framework conditions will have been regulated at the latest following the upcoming referendum on the eID Act. It is therefore a good time to get strategically fit and identify specific fields of action. The eID has a long history in Switzerland.

A look behind

A shelf warmer in the form of the SuisseID was launched in 2010. At the end of 2016, two groups competed with specific projects: UBS, Credit Suisse and Swisscom, and SBB and Swiss Post (SwissID)(1). Meanwhile, the Federal Council presented the draft of the Swiss Federal Act on Recognised Electronic Identification Services (eID Act) in 2017 (2). This draft foresees a concept of division of responsibility between the State and the private sector, for which the State specifies the necessary legal and organisational framework conditions, but for which the project implementation lies with the private sector. In June 2018, the Federal Council approved the dispatch on the eID Act.

On the strength of this, a committee successfully brought about a referendum with 64,933 authenticated signatures (3). The committee argued that the eID Act would lead to an historic system change. Instead of passport offices, private companies such as large banks and state-affiliated groups of companies would issue this digital ID and manage the corresponding sensitive data. The aim of the referendum is for the State to be the issuing authority and not only the controlling body for the eID. In the popular vote on 7 March 2021, the population rejected the proposed law. A purely governmental solution will now be developed and proposed.

Have a view to the EU

A comparison with the EU countries shows that most of them have already launched a digital means of identification. Various commercial solutions are on the market in a majority of the countries. In Germany, Finland and the Netherlands, solutions are also offered in public–private partnerships, whereas few countries, e.g. Estonia and Denmark, rely exclusively on a solution provided completely by the State (4). At glance at the EU makes it clear that both scenarios and in part even hybrid forms are practicable. Over half of Swiss people can imagine using a uniform digital identity for private and government services, as a study by the D21 Initiative has shown (5) – Upward trend.

The example of the current SwissID participant list shows that, in addition to banks, insurance companies and Swiss Post, numerous cantonal administrations, health insurance companies or companies in the real estate or financial sector are already linking many use cases with the eID.

The eID lays the foundation for unique identification during the processing of particularly sensitive online processes such as online shopping, ballots and elections, e-tax bills and concluding contracts online. A legal basis, which defines the legal and organisational framework conditions, is necessary for the successful dissemination of a national eID solution. However, it is equally important that the future solution is extremely simple in terms of set-up and usability, and that the providers can gain the trust of consumers. However, the use cases concern particularly sensitive data in terms of the Swiss Federal Act on Data Protection, such as religious, ideological, political or trade union-related views or activities, health, private life, racial origin or criminal sanctions.

Fields of application for the eID stand out for the Finnova Community

Numerous fields of application for the eID stand out for the Finnova Community in its immediate and broader surroundings: digital client onboarding, login for E-Banking, Mobile Banking and Portal, as well as contract signing in the context of digital signatures. Looking further ahead, various services can be bundled under one digital identity in relation to open banking. This way, clients could obtain a 360-degree view of their asset and pension provision situation in future, which goes far beyond the multi-banking idea.

All assets, including occupational pension and tokens of physical objects, insurance policies, tax documents, contracts, warranty certificates, etc. would be retrievable under one digital identity. A vision that will perhaps become reality in the foreseeable future. Digital identity is an important field of action for Finnova, which we are actively cultivating. Together with universities and universities of applied sciences, as well as our ecosystem partners, we are working on future, innovative services for Finnova products, such as E-Banking, Mobile Banking and Portal, but also in the context of open banking platforms.


1 https://www.moneytoday.ch/lexikon/digitale-identitaet-schweiz/ (German only)
2 https://www.bj.admin.ch/bj/de/home/staat/gesetzgebung/e-id.html (German, French and Italian only)
3 https://www.e-id-referendum.ch/ (German and French only)
4 https://asquared.company/blog/e-identity-loesungen-in-europa-ein-europaeischer-vergleich-686/ (German only)
5 https://www.netzwoche.ch/news/2018-11-07/e-gov-schweizer-wuenschen-sich-onlineangebote-doch-bei-der-nutzung-hakt-es (German only)