German government adds iPhone NFC identity card reading to digital ID app

NFC smartphone screen with national ID card in background
SMART ID: German citizens can securely identify themselves using the AusweisApp2 for iOS

The German government is using the NFC contactless chip reading capabilities now available on Apple iPhones in a new iOS app that lets citizens securely identify themselves to a range of online service providers by reading their contactless national ID card with their smartphone.

The launch of AusweisApp2 for iOS follows the rollout of iOS 13, which includes support for reading and writing to a wide range of contactless card formats.

The service has been available for Android NFC phone users since 2017 and also works with non-citizens’ contactless electronic residence permits.

As well as enabling consumers to securely identify themselves to an online service provider, the app allows consumers to reduce the risk of sharing sensitive information with a fraudulent service provider by also enabling the user to validate the identity of any online service provider they interact with.

Service providers wishing to use the service to streamline their identity checking process are required to first gain authorisation from Germany’s Federal Office of Administration.

Each time a citizen then uses AusweisApp2 to verify themselves online, they use the NFC functionality in their mobile phone to read their contactless identity card and then enter their PIN code in the app, to verify that they wish to share their data.

Before any data is transmitted, the service provider’s authorisation is verified and the user is also provided with details of all the data that the service provider has requested.

“Only someone in possession of your ID card and with knowledge of your PIN is able to allow information to be transmitted,” Governikus, which developed AusweisApp2 for the Federal Ministry of the Interior, explains.

“Your personal data is thus protected against abuse on the internet.”