CNIL, the French data protection agency (“Commission Nationale Informatique & Libertés”), has officially approved the use of facial recognition to verify users of the country’s forthcoming digital health card.
As The Connexion reports, CNIL has determined that the biometric technology will make the ‘Carte Vitale’ app more secure, though it approved its use only until another digital ID, the ‘France Identité’ app, becomes available. The latter is a more general digital ID app that’s aimed at replacing, or at least being equivalent to, traditional physical proof of identity in the country.
The Carte Vitale, meanwhile, is designed to replace physical health cards. A trial of the solution got underway last autumn across a handful of regions, with a selfie-based onboarding system being used to confirm the identities of participating volunteers. When using the app to access healthcare services, users were able to have their mobile health card scanned via NFC, or using a QR code.
Unlike the pilot version of the Carte Vitale, the France Identité app does not leverage biometric authentication. Instead, it prompts the end user to capture a photo of their physical ID, and to scan their ID’s embedded chip using the phone’s NFC reader. A third step in its onboarding process – at least as it stood when tested last October – requires the user to either link their digital identity used for online tax and insurance filings, or to verify their identity with a post office official.
CNIL appears to be banking on Carte Vitale’s elaborate identity verification process as a sufficient replacement of the selfie-based onboarding system currently in place for Carte Vitale. But given that the broader rollout of France Identité has been delayed, the selfie onboarding system could end up becoming a compelling incumbent onboarding solution.
In any case, CNIL has not only approved Carte Vitale’s use of biometric onboarding, but the app in general, giving the green light for a wide rollout – though it has set a regulatory condition requiring authorities to ensure that users will be able to ask for helping installing and using the app at their local health insurance office.
Government authorities are aiming to make the app available to all insured French residents by the end of 2025.
February 28, 2023 – by Alex Perala