EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Switzerland’s digital ID vote

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Switzerland’s digital ID vote
Students sit with their laptop computers at St. Joseph Catholic School in La Puente, California on November 16, 2020, where pre-kindergarten to Second Grade students in need of special services returned to the classroom today for in-person instruction. - The campus is the second Catholic school in Los Angeles County to receive a waiver approval to reopen as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. The US surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases Sunday, adding one million new cases in less than a week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

The Federal Act on Electronic Identification Services (LSIE) one of the three issues at the ballot box in Switzerland on March 7th.


What is the background of this issue?

Anyone who wants to obtain goods or services on the internet usually has to give details of their identity, often involving a user name and password.

But the government says these methods are not regulated by law and there is no guarantee that they are secure and reliable.

Consequently, the Federal Council and parliament have drawn up new legislation on a federally recognised electronic identity, the e-ID.

It would enable anyone in Switzerland to apply for a digital identity card to approved e-ID providers, who would then transmit the requests to federal authorities. Personal data would be transmitted only if individual consent is given.

Supporters leave the possibility for cantons, municipalities and private companies to be e-ID providers, subject to regular checks by Bern.

However, opponents of this measure called for a referendum on the proposed law.



READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is at stake in Switzerland’s March 7th referendums?

Who is against this law and why?

Opponents argue that private companies, even if approved by federal authorities, shouldn’t provide official identification documents, as there is a risk of misuse of personal data.

However, the Federal Council said that “in the case of the e-ID, the regulations on data protection are even stricter than usual”.

Those who are against the legislation also claim that identity control must remain a responsibility of the state. But as the government is not yet sufficiently at the forefront of digital identity technology, this issue should not be decided on at this time.

Among those who oppose this measure are the Social Democratic Party, the Greens, Green Liberal Party, trade unions, The Swiss Seniors Council, the Swiss Seniors Association, and the Federation of Retired and Self-Help Associations.  

The centrist parties, as well as the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, are in favour of the digital identity law.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s ‘anti-burqa’ initiative all about? 



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