French government to let citizens scan NFC eID cards to access secure online services

France's Carte Nationale d’Identité Électronique (CNIE) electronic ID card
NEW CARD: France’s new Carte Nationale d’Identité Électronique (CNIE) electronic ID card is contactless

French citizens will soon be able to verify their identity when accessing a range of secure online services — including opening a bank account, filing a tax return and paying for their health insurance — by scanning their updated Carte Nationale d’Identité Électronique (CNIE) eID card with their NFC-enabled smartphone.

The French government is introducing the functionality in order to enable holders of the new CNIE card to tap it on their mobile device in response to an authentication request made by any of 900 service providers connected to the FranceConnect platform.

At present, FranceConnect users verify their identity using the ID code and password for an account already registered and securely authenticated with one of six partner organisations: impots.gouv.fr, ameli.fr, Mobile Connect et Moi, MSA, Alicem or l’Identité Numérique La Poste.

The French government began a limited rollout of the new CNIE electronic identity cards in March 2021 before launching them nationally in August.

The card contains a contactless chip that stores a holder’s biometric data, including a photograph and two fingerprints, as well as an authenticating seal in the form of a QR code.

“According to the security rules imposed by the European regulation, the ministry wanted to add a certain number of devices in order to better protect the new identity card,” the Ministry of the Interior says. “Their objective is to ensure optimal protection of the personal data mentioned therein.”

“Particular attention is paid to the biometric data contained in the electronic component of the card: this data is stored in a highly secure compartment and access to it is specifically controlled.”

“The updated French national eID card… will enable French citizens to complete online transactions using their smartphone,” says Idemia, one of the technology providers contracted by the French government to develop the country’s digital identity system.

“Citizens will receive an authentication request on their smartphone. They will then place their CNIE on the back of their phone, which will communicate using NFC technology.”

“The mobile app will securely read and authenticate the personal data held in the card’s chip. Citizens will need to provide their consent before authentication.”

The system will comply with the European Union’s eIDAS regulations, “will protect citizens’ identity and will ensure that only the authorized citizen has control over it”. The French government introduced the Alicem digital identity service that enables citizens to use NFC passport reading to enrol themselves onto the system in October 2019.

The front (top image) and rear (bottom image) of the CNIE
FULL DECK: The front (top image) and rear (bottom image) of the CNIE incorporate multiple communication technologies and security features

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