SWITCH Identity Blog

The Identity Blog puts the spotlight on identity management, digital identities, identifiers, attributes, authentication and access management.


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Swiss E-ID, take two – SWITCH takes a stand

After a surprisingly clear defeat of the e-ID proposal in the national referendum early March 2021, the federal administration presented plans for a new attempt a month ago with a discussion paper on the target vision for an e-ID (DE, FR).

SWITCH is taking a stand and handed in a position statement end of September 2021 on this discussion paper in German: Stellungnahme SWITCH Zielbild E-ID final_sig.

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The project is finished – but we’re still on the ball!

When the national cooperation project “Swiss edu-ID” – supported by swissuniversities – started in 2014, it was clear that it would not be a walk in the park. Replacing a system like SWITCHaai that is running very well since more than a decade is not easy. Universities have to be convinced of the new solution – both in terms of technology and benefits – and also have enough time and resources to implement it.

With the Swiss edu-ID project, a major conceptual change from a decentralized authentication infrastructure to a centralized one was planned. This creates stronger dependencies. A stable basis of trust and smooth operation were important prerequisites. In parallel with the universities’ efforts, SWITCH therefore continued to expand the service and took measures to ensure performance and fail-safety.

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SWITCH edu-ID reaching 200’000 users

After reaching 100’000 accounts in March 2019, we were able to report 150’000 accounts eight months later. And today, I have the pleasure to announce that SWITCH edu-ID counts now over 200’000th accounts.

Of course, we intented to stick with our tradition to celebrate new landmarks with a cake featuring the number of accounts and a photo with the team behind the SWITCH edu-ID. The cake was already ordered… and if things went as planned, you would now find its picture in this post.

But we needed to bring our plans in line with the measures against COVID-19. Therefore, we had to cancel the cake and change the way the team photo was taken.

For the time being – and if we trust the figures published by the WHO – we can still claim that there are more confirmed identities in the SWITCH edu-ID than there are confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide (184’975).


Switzerland’s E-ID Law clears further hurdles

Creating a new law is a long journey. We already featured several “making of” stages of the Swiss E-ID Law and the contributions of SWITCH in our E-ID category: consultation of an E-ID Concept in 2015, consultation of an early draft E-ID Law in 2017, publication of proposed law in 2018.

Another hurdle was recently cleared with the National Council approving the proposed law with relatively minor changes in March 2019 (for the interested: this business is referenced under 18.049). A minority wanted to change to government-issued Electronic Identities (eIDs), but the proposed market model was upheld.
Next step is the debate in the Commission of Legal Affairs of the Council of States in April 2019. In the absence of major changes, the law can be put in force in 2021.

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E-ID law: SWITCH contributing to parliamentary hearing

At its meeting on 1 June 2018, the Federal Council adopted a dispatch to Parliament containing a draft for an E-ID law (see corresponding press release in DE, FR and IT; for follow-ups see “18.049 Business of the Federal Council”).

The National Council’s legal commission now runs the business. On 15.11.2018, it held a hearing with representatives of industry, public corporations, potential providers of E-ID solutions and interested parties from civil society. As a potential provider, SWITCH was able to take part in this hearing.

This draft E-ID law largely follows the preliminary draft consulted last year (press release with link to consultation report at page bottom). It does not come as a surprise, therefore, that the position of SWITCH expressed towards the preliminary draft also applies to the new draft law – including the criticism voiced therein. Continue reading


The SWITCH identity federation – a look beyond its borders

The SWITCH identity federation was conceived almost two decades ago. The SWITCHaai service, implementing its concepts, has been in operation for over a decade. Today, the SWITCH edu-ID service is in its initial stages to become its successor, and it is still following the same model: to stay the identity federation of the Swiss academic community. That is reason enough to address those two rather fundamental questions:

  1. Are national identity federations still the right approach to satisfy the needs of the academic community – a community with increasing international collaboration?
  2. Will emerging e-ID services, or services like SwissID, eventually replace the SWITCH identity federation?

Both question the remits of the current solution: national and academic. But they differ in perspective: while the first is questioning the national remit, the second is questioning the academic-only context. Continue reading


Identity Management Evolution

What does it take for a university to adopt the SWITCH edu-ID? This is the question SWITCH and seven partners (EPFL, FHNW, UNIFR, UNIGE, UNIL, UNISG and ZHAW) are addressing in the project “Swiss edu-ID Deployment Step 1” as part of swissuniversities’ program «Scientific information». The project advanced nicely and would justify an article on its own. But let’s draw your attention to an interesting side product of this project: we learned how electronic identities are managed in our community – and how the approaches are evolving over time and why.

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Consultation on draft of federal E-ID law

At its meeting on 22 February 2017, the Swiss Federal Council opened a consultation on legislation on electronic identification (E-ID law, see announcements: DE, FR, IT). The consultation ended 29 May 2017.

SWITCH participated in this consultation and confirms the importance of a well-functioning and generally accepted E-ID. The identity service SWITCH edu-ID/SWITCHaai could potentially benefit from such an E-ID legislation: either to start offering an E-ID function itself, or by consuming E-ID services. Such use cases – from SWITCH and from other parties – may become important drivers for the spread of E-ID beyond pure e-government applications and for the emergence of an general-purpose E-ID ecosystem.

After evaluating the proposed delivery model in the draft E-ID-law, SWITCH proposes its revision. To ensure swift implementation and to reduce risks and complexity, SWITCH urges that the proposed market model be abandoned in favour of an implementation by the Swiss Confederation itself or by mandating it to a third party.

If the market model is to be pursued nevertheless, SWITCH proposes the use of a multi-stakeholder expert group to resolve the many open questions arising from the draft. If this group can not achieve its objectives, the market model is to be abandoned once and for all in favour of the proposed government-driven implementation model for an E-ID.

You are invited to read the full answer of SWITCH to the consultation (in German): 20170529 Vernehmlassungsantwort SWITCH E-ID-Gesetzesentwurf.

 


Partner event: EduID Mobile App Architecture meeting on 25 April 2017

The “digital transformation” has strong effects on how individuals interact with each other through the use of services – and it adds some challenges to the service operator’s agenda. One such challenge is to deploy consistent identity management across all the devices the “digitally transformed” user may choose from.

For over a decade, SWITCHaai streamlines the user’s (and also the service operator’s) experience by offering a consistent identity management framework across a wide range of web-application services. SWITCH edu-ID is extending this framework to reach beyond web-applications and to also seamlessly integrate with mobile apps.

The project Swiss edu-ID Mobile App (part of swissuniversities’ program “Scientific information”) aims at developing a novel approach to this challenge.

The eduhub Special Interest Group SIG Mobile Learning will discuss this approach and contrast it with other approaches. Interested app developers and service providers are encouraged to register for the event by answering this Doodle poll by 19 April the latest.


Project approval for “Swiss edu-ID Deployment Step 1”

Back in August 2016, SWITCH and seven partners (EPFL, FHNW, UNIFR, UNIGE, UNIL, UNISG and ZHAW) applied for project funding through in the framework of the P2/P5 programme of swissuniversities. Regular readers of our blog might remember, that we wrote about the submission and the nature of the proposal in the blog post Project for Deployment Step 1 in 2017 submitted which you are encouraged to re-read.

We are delighted to share with you the good news that this project received green light from the “Comité de pilotage du programme CUS P-2” at their meeting on 5 December 2016. This is good news for SWITCH and the university community as well as their stakeholders, as it marks the first of four “deployment steps” to implement the Swiss edu-ID roadmap until 2020.

This week, we received the formal approval letter annexed with an assessment note and additional obligations, which mean some additional homework for SWITCH (clarifications, reporting and project management obligations, as well as accommodating a cut in overall spending). Another good news for our project partners: these obligations are not impacting our partners’ work packages nor do they affect the support they receive from SWITCH.

We are looking forward to start the process of entering the deployment phase of the Swiss edu-ID roadmap and rolling out the SWITCH edu-ID service until 2020.


From project to service – introducing the SWITCH edu-ID service

Autumn 2013. Big things start small. An interuniversity working group captures floating ideas around user-centric identities, puts those ideas into a roadmap and proposes a name for it: Swiss edu-ID. The resulting document becomes one cornerstone of the national strategy, approved by the Swiss University Conference in April 2014. But it also marks the beginning of SWITCH’s efforts to implement the proposed Swiss edu-ID roadmap. swissuniversities supports this collaborative effort of SWITCH and the Swiss universities including their libraries.

Autumn 2016. The pilot service Swiss edu-ID V1.0 is around for well over a year. It allowed us to gain first operational experience in numerous pilot projects and a much clearer picture of what is yet to come. We also learned that some services start to rely increasingly on the availability of Swiss edu-ID, while others care more for the latest feature. Time is ripe to give both a home.

This is why SWITCH starts to use a new, distinct branding for the operational service emerging from the Swiss edu-ID project. The new branding honors the roots by keeping “edu-ID” in its name, but it also shows its operational home, adheres to the service naming guidelines of SWITCH and receives proper legal protection. The user-centric identity management service of SWITCH will be called the SWITCH edu-ID service.

You might notice in the not so distant future, that a new service will pop in the service catalogue of SWITCH, or that the “edu-ID login window” will look slightly different. But one thing won’t change: in its heart, the SWITCH edu-ID still carries those ideas captured in autumn 2013 by an interuniversity working group.


New SWITCH story: “Empowering Swiss research”

The Swiss edu-ID project is partly funded through the funding programme P-2 of swissuniversities. The project manager of P-2, Roland Dietlicher, shares his views on the achievements and challenges of the funding programme P-2 in the latest SWITCH story. In doing that, he also covers the importance of the academic identity Swiss edu-ID to the success of the P-2 programme.


Less hassle, less effort

The Swiss edu-ID can help with a range of problems. The latest SWITCH story highlights two examples:

  • Swissbib allows to search most of the Swiss libraries and repositories at once. Users can specify favourite libraries, save reading lists, view their search history and much more besides. Since Swiss edu-ID users can keep their account for an unlimited time, they no longer lose account data when their employment or student status changes as is the case with SWITCHaai.
  • Roberto Mazzoni, Head of User Services in the Central IT Department at the University of Zurich, points out specific advantages of the Swiss edu-ID with respect to the current situation with SWITCHaai: It simplifies identity management processes and reduces the risk to create duplications.

Please follow this link to access the SWITCH story.