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ID yourself by phone

Many local government offices, healthcare centres and insurance companies now accept mobile phone identification in Finland. In future, online banking services will also accept secure ID certificates provided by users' mobile phones. However, legislation needs updating to deal with the potential for identity theft.

Älypuhelin, henkilökortti ja ajokortti.
Image: Ilkka Kemppinen / Yle

Mobile ID certificates have started to gain a foothold in Finland. Mobile verification was launched by three of Finland's leading mobile service carriers in 2011. Now, operators plan to increase marketing of the technology to consumers early this year and expect the use of mobile IDs to take off rapidly.

"We think there are enough services available using them and this is now useful for consumers," says Perttu Hörkkö, product chief at the Elisa telecommunications company.

The system has several security levels. Using a service that requires identification, the user first logs in his or her mobile phone number or user name. After this, a confirmation message is received that is acknowledged by a personal access code. The phone notifies the website of identification and the service is accessed.

So far, the system is not in use with online banking services, but this, too, is expected to become possible sometime later this year.

There are around 200 different services that accept mobile ID certificates. They can be used to establish personal identification for many municipal public services, for example when booking an appointment at local government offices or applying for child daycare services. They are also accepted as proof of identification by healthcare centres and insurance companies.

Law needs update

Legislation is lagging behind technological development in this field. While it is a criminal offense to impersonate another person when applying for ID papers from the police, this is not the case with mobile IDs or even online banking passwords. However, the actual use of fraudulently acquired electronic IDs is a crime.

Operators require applicants for mobile IDs to show proof of identification, and say that to date there have been no known cases of mobile ID theft. However, they are pressing for changes to the law which would criminalize attempts to acquire a mobile ID certificate in someone else's name.

Officials have recognized that mobile IDs could indeed become a new target of identity thieves and plans are in place at the Justice Ministry to move forward on new legislation regulating their use this year.

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