Preliminary draft of a Swiss act on electronic identity

On 22 February 2017, the Swiss Federal Council published a preliminary draft of a new act on the methods of electronic identification (e-ID Act) and, in doing so, initiated a consultation period which will run until 29 May 2017. The relevant documentation (in German, French and Italian) is available here.

The preliminary draft of the e-ID Act originates in the need to establish user identity in the digital realm. Indeed, contractual partners must be able to trust the identity of their counterparties. According to the Federal Council, the present situation is unsatisfactory in this respect because of the diversity of electronic identification methods and the ensuing costs.

The envisaged system will rely on a mix of private and public actors, involving in particular a dedicated federal organism that will interact with the e-ID providers. These providers may in turn be public or private (Swiss Post, the federal railways, banks, and so forth) and will be able to deliver e-IDs of three different levels, ranging from weak to high, depending on the protection these e-IDs offer against various forms of tampering.

The preliminary draft also purports to protect user personal data by providing for the intervention of a federal service (“Identitätsstelle”) in charge of transmitting identity information obtained from the federal registers to the e-ID providers. First-time transmissions of identity information from the federal service to e-ID providers require the express prior consent of the individuals concerned. The e-ID providers may use such identity information only for the purpose of providing identification services.

The e-ID needs to be distinguished from the SuisseID and other electronic signatures, which are presently governed by the Electronic Signature Act of 18 March 2016.