New electronic signature directive named “Electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market” (eIDAS) has been now voted in favour at the European Parliament. The vote on eIDAS happened on April 3 with 534 votes “for” and 73 “against”. Legislative process details and the text of the proposed directive can be found on European Parliament website, process 2012/0146(COD).
The main objective of eIDAS was to revive the old electronic signatures directive (1999/93/EC) which had consequences on the EU market that were quite contrary to its aims. Instead of promoting a single, usable, Europe-wide authentication, it created a fragmented market of highly incompatible, national systems that were all but user friendly (see When the EU qualified electronic signature becomes an information services preventer).
In my opinnion what happened with the 1999/93/EC directive was a total take-over by security and legal geeks, which resulted in putting enormous focus on its theoretical, legal and technical security, while completely ignoring factors such as business relevance and usability. When I raised this topic on various e-signature conferences in years 2000-2010 the typical geek answer was “you just don’t realize how secure it has to be to allow buying houses over Internet”. But the question that the geeks never asked before going into the exciting technical safeguards of the signature was if there are actually any end-users out there interested in buying houses over Internet?.
The result of this approach is around 15 years completely wasted on enacting flawed and usunable solution. In countries where the administration blindly worships EU law without even trying to understand its purpose, like Poland, this resulted in actual freezing of any electronic administration services for the whole decade.
I haven’t yet analysed the full text of the proposed directive so I won’t comment on it. A very detailed background on the previous and proposed situation can be found in eIDAS impact asessment.