The new identity card isn't just to verify who a person is. It's now a matter of personal security, according to German officials who showed off the country's newest ID technology at this year's CeBIT conference.
According to reports from CeBIT, the new identity card will go into circulation for the first time in November 2010. It features an advanced biometric identification system and users have the option of associating a finger print with the card.
The user's identity information and electronic signature is encrypted and broadcast by the card via radio frequency identity (RFID), which its creators believe will help facilitate e-commerce and e-government. The card could even be used to remember passwords on the Internet, according to a product description on the CeBIT Web site. Lost or stolen cards would be treated like credit cards today: once reported missing, they would no longer be accepted.
"In order for the new electronic ID card to be accepted by Germans, the federal, state and municipal administration, as well as independent businesses and banks, must develop solutions on their side that enable the smooth running of business processes with the new electronic ID card," the CeBIT page claims. "With the new electronic procedures for filing taxes, the changeover to the new ID system is already underway."
The group calls its new ID standard a "personal security card" that will "improve practical life."
The RFID medium is an especially controversial choice for an ID standard technology, given its seeming disposition to being hacked. Tales of RFID's insecurity dot the Web and popular blog BoingBoing memorably promoted a video in March 2009 showing how RFID-enabled credit cards could be hacked for less than $8 and some basic tech skills.
With over 1 billion RFID-enabled cards already in circulation, it would appear that business has settled on a new standard for wireless verification systems. Whether that standard's safety and reliability as an identity technology will be proven remains to be seen.