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EU to unveil plans for 'bloc-wide' digital wallet

Plans for a biometrically secured app to be revealed on Wednesday and could be fully operational by next year

A smartphone over a map of Europe with a lock icon

The European Union is expected to unveil plans for a bloc-wide digital wallet on Wednesday, following requests from member states to provide citizens with a safe way to access online services.

The digital wallet would allow citizens from all 27 member states to securely store payment details and passwords, according to The Financial Times, which cites sources with "direct knowledge" of the plans.

The proposed app, which will have biometric authentication, such as fingerprint and retina scanners, will also serve as a digital vault where users can store official documentation, like driver's licences.

App users will benefit from an "extra-secure" digital ecosystem that is said to be "ideal" for post-pandemic life, according to the source, although it isn't clear whether this will include any form of vaccination verification. Its use is also not thought to be compulsory.

The EU's digital policy commissioner, Thierry Breton, alluded to the plans earlier in the year, suggesting a new digital ID would give every European the keys to their "digital twin". Brussels is said to be currently engaged in discussions with all member states on a set of guidelines for the technical standards needed to roll out the digital wallet, which could be fully operational by 2022.

A type of digital wallet is already in use across 19 member states, but not all of these are compatible with one another. EU officials hope that increased digital literacy and the use of digital tools during the pandemic will help the new system find more traction.

The use cases for uniformed digital wallets vary between industries, but they include being able to remotely hire a car and using an app as an electronic key. Through the app, the user can immediately pick up the vehicle without the need for waiting in line at the airport.

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