Tracing Diversity in the History of Citizen Identifiers in Europe: a Legacy for Electronic Identity Management?
Secure and interoperable e-government identity management practices and transactions are essential in supporting the free movement of people, products and ideas across the European Union. As a result there is significant interest and investment in this area, with open architecture solutions being proposed to support electronic cross-border identity management services. In our engagement with GUIDE (‘Creating a European Identity Management Architecture for eGovernment’), an EU-funded project that provided specifications for such a solution, we explored the influence of ‘softer’ issues, related to organizational, legal and societal aspects of identity management. This chapter reports on our findings on the role of the social context of the European Union in the understanding and acceptance of electronic identity management services by citizens. Our approach entailed looking at six, geographically spread and culturally diverse EU countries to investigate the interplay of social context and history on the perceptions of identity management in society. This chapter reports on current citizen attitudes towards identity management in these countries, as influenced by historical circumstance. We argue that efforts to coordinate identity management at the European level need to respect and accommodate historical and cultural conditions that have shaped the diversity in current national practices.
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