German politicians argue against the German eID

Today, some influential German politicians started argueing against the upcoming German eID card in a sunday newspaper. The eID card is planned to be available by November, 1st. The main argument is that the costs of the project are increasing - there is the request for some additional 7 million Euro for advertising. The politicans claim as well that experts doubt about the need for the eID card. They propose to shift the introduction to 2020.

There are for sure some points with the German eID card which you can discuss. However, the arguments of these politicians just show that they don't understand anything of what they are talking about. No big surprise, you might claim - they are politicians. To provide my view on this:

  1. Yes, the eID card costs a lot of money. However, new things typically aren't for free. And given that the eID card is a government project, there is a lot of politics and lobbying in, which never ever saves money. Anyhow, it doesn't appear to be excessively costly.
  2. The concept of the German eID card might not be perfect, but it goes beyond most other approaches when looking at principles like "minimal disclosure of information" and the supported use cases as well for public as for private use.
  3. Security is well solved. There are some people claiming that fingerprints aren't secure. Yes - there might be some fraud. But the eID card is way beyond the alternatives we have today and which could be used in a mass market. I personally think that it is much better to do some (significant) step forward in security instead of staying still and looking for the Nirvana.
  4. The concepts have to be explained to the public. That is an educational effort which will take time and which will cost money. However, we should look not only at potential downsides but might concentrate on the positive things - and there are many interesting use cases. There is a lot of potential within the German eID card.
  5. There are experts (I thought about putting the term into quotas...) - no surprise, you will always find experts which support your opinion, especially as a politician.
  6. You definitely can wonder about why we need a health card and an eID card on a national basis - one card might be sufficient (especially given that you have to educate people on the privacy concepts for both cards and thus you might reduce the efforts on this...).
I could add many more points to that list. However, I think that this is just another example of politicians talking about things they don't understand at all. There is some value in the German eID card. It is based on a well-thought concept. There are things which might be improved - and many of the shortcomings we might observe at the beginning will be solved. It will take some time for the mass adoption - again no surprise. But overall, it is absurd to stop this project now and to restart it in some ten years. That would mean that much more money then it will ever cost to bring the project to an successful end will be destroyed and will have to be spent again in some years. Thus, there is definitely no sense at all in stopping this project now. But there is a lot of sense in spending some extra money in education of the citizens, to make it successful.



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