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Dutch government to use open source for its new e-ID card

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The Dutch government will use open source software for developing its e-ID card solution. The e-ID plans were presented to the Dutch Parliament by Ronald Plasterk, Minister of the Interior last week Wednesday.

The ministry is considering to use a chip card similar to the German government, according to a spokesperson for the minister. It has also looked at the smart card system developed by the Belgian government. "Apparently the German approach for smart card allows a few more options that we're interested in, but it is too early to tell."

The spokesperson could not say if the Dutch is planning to use software developed by other governments. "But we will use open source software where possible. That is our policy."

The technical requirements guide of Germany's governmental smart card specifies that smart card readers, either internal or external to a users' PC, must work correctly on several computer operating systems. The list includes two proprietary operating systems and the Linux open source alternative, for example the Debian Linux, Ubuntu Linux or Opensuse Linux distributions. The specifications were updated last month by the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (Federal Office for Information Security, BSI).

The Belgian federal government is making the software that it develops for its smart card system available as open source. Earlier this month, it added another software module on its Google Code repository - links to the modules are available on Joinup. This module, called the Commons e-ID Library, "provides a very generic Java library to handle the Belgian e-ID card. The library can be used both for writing desktop applications as well as browser based applets."

Patriots act
The Dutch government wants to replace its current system, Digid. This is linked to citizens' service number and to the registration number of companies. When used over the Internet, it verifies the identity by checking a password. Replacing this by a smart card should help counter identity fraud, Minister Plasterk explained on Wednesday. Simply combining a citizen's number with basic address data allows attackers to impersonate others, according to the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. Switching to an e-ID card, will make it impossible to access government services without the card itself.

The Dutch parliament wants the minister to check if the government can exclude American firms from offering e-ID-cards and services. Some Members of Parliament worry that Dutch citizen data might end up in the hands of the US government.

More information:
Volkskrant news item (in Dutch)
BSI's Requirements for Smart Card Readers Supporting eID and eSign Based on Extended Access Control (pdf)
The Belgian eID Card (pdf)
The Belgian eID Card on Joinup