10 years of eID: Portugal's citizen card


A new national ID card scheme​

The first pilot phase of the Portuguese citizen card also know as Cartão de Cidadão started February 14, 2007 in the Azores region. 

Full roll-out started in 2008. 

In 2014, all Portuguese citizens have their new national identity card in hand replacing the old paper-based document.
​The goal of issuing an e-ID card was to revolutionize the way in which Portuguese citizens interact with the government. 

First, sim​plification.

​Replacing 5 cards

The card replaces 5 different physical ID documents :
  1. Civil identification card - the former paper-based ID
  2. Taxation card
  3. Voting card
  4. Social security card
  5. Healthcare card.

​The new citizen card known as Cartão do Cidadão or citizen's card ​​enables individuals to identify themselves in front of officials. 

Then, a new di​mension.

A new eID card for online authentication

​The second goal is to use the card as a brand new tool for electronic signature and online authentication fostering the development of electronic transactions and giving citizens peace of mind in the digital age.

​To identify and authenticate themselves, cardholders enter a secret pin code and the card then generates a digital signature for secure declarations and eadministrative procedures. 

This application provides the required cryptographic means for secure access to e-government services portal. 

 As the Portuguese constitution forbids a single central database for names, several identifiers can be found on the citizen card, at the front and back of the card (Civil ID number, social security number, tax number, healthcare user number).

Numerous public services are now available online and procedures that would have taken hours (obtaining civil records/birth certificates, Social Security declaration, etc) now take a matter of seconds.
As of 2014, over 45% of card holders have activated their digital certificates.​

This project is also supported by actions such as a very active website www.cartaodecidadao.pt

Th​​ere's more.

Biometric authenticatio​n

​The national identity card support biometric authentication, when necessary, as fingerprints are safely stored in the microprocessor of the card. The match on card mechanism allows biometric authentication without any central biometric database. This is stricly forbidden in Portugal.

​Biometric credentials never leave the smart card, meaning that they remain protected at all times. 
It is the card's processor which carries out the check and answers yes or no to the question: does the fingerprint presented correspond to the one stored in the card?

A strong partnership

For INCM (Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda SA), the Portuguese National Printing Office, it was another opportunity to further enhance their unique expertise after the electronic passport project.​

In 2006, INCM selected Gemalto as prime contractor to provide the digital security solution for the national eID card (Sealys eID), including the secure operating system, the personalization system (Coesys Issuance solution) as well as the applications, the middleware and associated helpdesk services with Zetes Burótica, the Portuguese subsidiary of Belgian Zetes Industries.

The Portuguese government selected a secure identification document, based on identification, authentication and signature (IAS) specifications – the first in Europe.​