When thinking about OpenID and its use cases I usually have registering accounts with web services and commenting on blogs in mind; I am probably not the only one thinking in that direction although there are countless other possibilities, Sun’s OpenID server being one of them (Sun OpenID=Sun employee).
Today I have come across an example which goes way beyond Sun’s example (see Ma.gnolia bookmark). Estonia started issuing electronic Identity Cards (eID) in 2002 to its citizens. Those eID’s will be OpenID’s soon! Beta tests are running at the moment.
Although Estonia is a small country with just 1.37 million inhabitants more than one million Estonians and foreigners residing in the country will have an OpenID. Open.id.ee=Estonian eID. Those OpenID’s are very secure because smart cards are required which make phishing and identity theft impossible.
Besides being identity cards and OpenID’s those eID’s have a lot more functions. They contain two certificates for authentication and signing and a permanent email address which is forwarding emails to people’s real email provider; it is also used as a health card so there is no need for an extra card.
Other applications can be developed by using core components of the eID software. Estonians can use their eID for tax declaration, public transport, WiFi access, and even internet voting. Quite impressive actually.
While the eID seems to be a very comfortable authentication tool privacy issues occur, of course. It could be the wet dream of some politicians. However the Estonian Data Protection Act allows just 12 people access to personal data; police and tax officials have only access after a court order. More information on security and privacy can be obtained here.
Information on eID: