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Direct democracy Voters to have final say on digital ID

Group of people with red booklet in front of parliament building

Representatives of civil society groups, left-wing parties and trade unions brandishing a red brochure on the risks of data protection handed in the signatures on Thursday. 

(Keystone/Peter Schneider)

Campaigners have handed in the necessary signatures to challenge a decision for the creation of a digital identity of internet users in Switzerland. 

An alliance of civil society groups, supported by the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, which collected about 64,000 signatures, want to bring down a law which limits the role of the state to a licensing authority but leaves the development of technical ID systems to the private sector. 

“The e-ID is the centrepiece of digital democracy as it will allow us to collect signatures electronically for initiatives and referendums,” said co-campaign leader Daniel Graf. “It therefore has to remain a key task of the state to secure IDs.” 

The campaigners say a majority of the population do not trust private companies over data protection. 

The referendum comes amid increasing public concern over security risks about the use of the internet, notably for e-voting. 

However, the government and parliament argue the state does not have the necessary expertise, but a commission would oversee the procedures and activities of the ID providers. 

It takes at least 50,000 signatures collected within 100 days to force a nationwide vote. 

Busy year 

It is the third group this week to hand in signatures for a referendum, alongside the challengers of the amended hunting law and tax breaks for child benefits

Pending the validation of the collected signatures, the other two issues will come to a nationwide vote in May, while the e-ID vote is likely to be scheduled for September. 

Overall, Swiss voters might face a busy year with several people’s initiatives set to be decided at the ballot box. 

They include a proposal for measures to boost social housing (in February) and the initiative by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party to effectively scrap a bilateral accord with the European Union on the free movement of people (in May). 

Other proposals could include initiatives about corporate responsibility, a ban on wearing a burka, a ban on arms exports as well as moves towards more transparent party funding rules

In addition, initiatives for cheaper imports of consumer goods and restrictions for the use of pesticides as well as measures to improve conditions and training opportunities of nurses and other care workers could also soon be put to the people. But the government has yet to set a date. 

More than 730 nationwide votes have taken place in modern Swiss history, including 340 people’s initiatives. But only 22 of them won a majority at the ballot box. The most recent successful initiative dates back to 2014, when voters endorsed a lifelong ban for paedophiles to work with children.

Online services  Digital ID plans divide politicians and civil society 

Parliament has approved the creation of a digital ID to certify the identity of users of internet services, but critics are challenging the decision. 

This content was published on September 23, 2019 5:34 PM

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