Germany's new citizen ID number to digitise and streamline admin
The German Bundestag has waved through a reform that would see the tax identification number transformed into a comprehensive “citizen identification number” (Bürger-Identifikationsnummer). The idea to simplify and streamline administrative processes, but privacy advocates have some reservations.
Tax ID, meet the Citizen ID
Last week, the Bundestag passed the Register Modernisation Act, thus paving the way for a reform that would convert the tax ID into the Bürger-ID. The new citizen ID number would contain the same personal data as the tax ID, but crucially would be accessible to multiple official organisations and agencies in Germany.
The idea is, instead of someone having to repeatedly give out the same pieces of personal information - such as their date and place of birth, their address or marital status - and back this up with documentation like birth certificates or registration certificates, these details could all be held centrally, enabling authorities to simply bring up the data they need by inputting a person’s citizen ID number.
The Federal Council still needs to give its approval, but if it does, the information already contained on tax IDs will then be shared with around 50 other authorities - including those who manage registrations, weapons licences, driving licences, pensions and health insurance.
Crucially, however, multiple data queries would only be permitted if the person concerned agrees to have their data shared. At the same time, everyone would be able to access their own data via a “data cockpit” (Datencockpit) to see for themselves which authorities hold which pieces of data about them.
German privacy advocates say reform is unconstitutional
Even with this proviso, the proposed reform has been the target of much criticism. Unsurprisingly given its history, Germany is a country that has always taken data protection and privacy very seriously - and so many view the prospect of authorities “sharing data” with great scepticism.
Opposition parties voted unanimously against the new law, which they consider to be fundamentally incompatible with Germany’s constitution, the Basic Law. The digital policy spokesperson for the FDP parliamentary group, Manuel Höferlin, said that the use of the tax ID as a uniform personal identifier was constitutionally highly questionable. The Greens made similar allegations, while the Left and the AfD rejected the proposal.
The Federal Council now needs to give its opinion - but since it previously pointed out potential constitutional problems with the concept of a Bürger-ID, it is uncertain whether the new law will pass.