European Pirate Party (PPEU) MEPS are withdrawing support from the European Union’s Digital ID proposals over concerns they could lead to mass public surveillance by authorities.
Writing in a blog post, Czech Pirate MEP Mikuláš Peksa announced that because the planned final legislation could not prevent EU governments from monitoring their citizens, he and other Pirates would stand against it.
The EU Digital ID (eID) proposal is an initiative by the EU to create a single online ID for the bloc’s citizens, replacing the numerous logins and accounts most people have on various websites.
Peksa and German Pirate MEP Patrick Breyer said they had serious concerns over online privacy for EU citizens.
“I considered and still consider it crucial to prevent the creation of a [mass] surveillance tool,” Peksa wrote on Czech online news outlet Aktualne.cz.
Breyer also took a firm line, saying: “This regulation is a blank cheque for surveillance of citizens online, endangering our privacy and security.
“Over-identification will gradually erode our right to use digital services anonymously. Mark Zuckerberg should have no right to see our ID!,” he added.
Speaking to Brussels Signal, a parliamentary assistant to the MEPs confirmed that the European Parliament’s Pirate delegation would be voting against the final legislation. The assistant added that it was “probable” that the Parliament’s Greens group, of which the PPEU is a part, would follow suit.
The move comes shortly after the Parliament’s technology committee voted in favour of an amended version of the legislation. In that case, the Greens as a whole voted against the eID.
The regulations on the eID were being negotiated in trilogue – ie by representatives of the Council of Ministers, the Parliament and the European Commission. The law will now have to go before the Parliament one last time before it can become official EU legislation.
Peksa and Breyer said they regretted having to stand against the proposed new law.
Peksa wrote that the “simplification” the eID offered for online identities and authentication would have been “a key step towards the full digitalisation of public services by 2030”.
Parliament rapporteur Romana Jerković, of the centre-left S&D Group, said it was “game-changing legislation that will propel the digitalisation of the public sector and society as a whole” after the Parliament committee approved it.
The PPEU said Peksa and Breyer had worked “until the last minute to try and fix at least some of the numerous risks”, including attempting to make the eID non-mandatory and allowing citizens of EU nations to opt in or not.
Ultimately, Breyer said, “the lure of conveniently signing in to private digital services using a single official eID app is a trap” that will “gradually erode” the right to individual privacy and anonymity.
At the beginning of November, more than 500 scientists and NGOs signed an open letter warning about the dangers of mass surveillance they said the eID proposal, if adopted, could create.