France’s New ID Cards: Physical with Digital Components - Identity Review - Identity Review | Global Tech Think Tank

Via decree published on March 14, the French government will begin its rollout of new ID cards, each equipped with a set of unique QR codes and fingerprints of the owner. The département of Oise in Northern Paris will be the first to begin the rollout followed by the département Seine-Maritime on March 29, French media reported.

The Anatomy

The cards are not on digital formats. Rather, they are smaller, credit card-sized cards equipped with digital features. Most notably is the chip, which will contain all the personal information that is stated on the physical card like name, date of birth, nationality and more. The picture of the owner will also be stored there alongside two fingerprints (save for children under 12 years old). The orcachet électronique visible, or the QR code, is an electronic signature that works as an authenticity stamp. It acts as a seal that allows access to certain data when scanned.

Each département will be able to distribute the new cards by August 2. The old citizenship cards, though, will be active until 2031 to cushion a potentially uneven rollout.

The Impetus

The chief aim of the new cards is to limit identity theft. 

“It’s first and foremost a question of protecting everyone’s identity,” Citizenship Minister Marlène Schiappa said as she presented the new cards to French newspaper Le Parisien. “Every year, more than 30,000 people are victims of identity theft.”

Given this, the new cards will only be valid for up to ten years—as opposed to the former fifteen—and strictly limited to French citizens, not residents.

Additionally, the EU has requested that France’s new card aligns with its guidelines for digital identity schemes, given that many member states have forayed into transitioning their identity programs online. France has until August 21, 2021 to conform to EU rules and take its specific scheme online.


Olivia Baker is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she writes on tech policy and national digital identity technologies.

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