Monday, 19 March 2012

The French people kindly volunteer to pay for any mistakes their banks make

A quoi ça sert la ... signature électronique?

Remember France? Remember 6 March 2012 when the French parliament decided to introduce national biometric ID cards? In a scheme reminiscent of Vichy? Time to take a look at one aspect of this scheme – digital signatures (signatures électroniques). Someone needs to tell the French people what their government is letting them in for.

Serge Blisko, député de Paris, has tried to tell them. Bravely. No British MP would try to talk about PKI (the public key infrastructure) and digital certificates. But M. Blisko did. In his immaculate speech of 13 July 2011. Three times:
Cette proposition de loi prévoit, dans son article 2, la création d’une carte d’identité biométrique, comprenant notamment les empreintes digitales des personnes, outre d’autres éléments tels que la taille et la couleur des yeux. L’article 3 crée une fonctionnalité supplémentaire qui pourrait être activée, de manière facultative il est vrai, par le détenteur de la carte nationale d’identité pour ses transactions commerciales sur internet et dans ses relations avec l’e-administration. Cette fonctionnalité lui permettrait de s’identifier sur internet et de mettre en œuvre sa signature électronique. Concrètement, la personne devra tout de même disposer d’un boîtier connecté à son ordinateur, ce qui n’apparaît pas très simple. Elle sera libre de choisir les données personnelles qu’elle veut transmettre ...
En 2005, malgré la technologie de l’époque, le débat était le même qu’aujourd’hui : la création d’une carte nationale d’identité électronique, contenant donc des données biométriques, était déjà envisagée ; elle ouvrait la possibilité de prouver son identité sur internet et de signer électroniquement ...
Dernier aspect déplaisant, sur lequel vous avez glissé un peu rapidement, monsieur le rapporteur : cette proposition de loi est une opportunité pour faciliter les échanges commerciaux. Je ne suis pas contre le fait de sécuriser la signature électronique sur internet pour déclarer ses impôts ou payer une amende au Trésor public, mais la proposition de loi va au-delà du domaine régalien et de ses extensions budgétaires.
France's new ID cards will include facilities for identifying yourself over the web and for signing documents digitally. Let's take an example. Let's say you're buying a car for €30,000. And the document you're signing digitally is the contract for sale.

As M. Blisko says, the exact process for digital signature remains undefined but, having once taken their leap in the dark, the French will find that however it works, it's "pas très simple".

That's a charming understatement. Implementing PKI properly is extremely complicated.

But suppose the French manage to do it. They're good at infrastructure. They've got good people working on the problem. They've got the will. It's a matter of national pride. Marianne, la patrie and all that. Let's assume that France can get a PKI system up and running with 50 million users. No-one else has ever managed that. But, just for the sake of argument, if and when France manage it, what then? What is the effect of signing a document digitally?

M. Blisko doesn't answer that question, for the good reason that he doesn't ask it. Perhaps he assumes that everyone already knows what digital signatures mean. Just in case they don't, though, here is the answer in one word – non-repudiation.

If you sign a document digitally, you cannot repudiate your agreement. You are committed. Irrevocably.

Further, the fact that the document is digitally signed means that you signed it. You cannot claim that someone else signed it. Even if it's true. Even if it is a case of identity theft/l’usurpation d’identité, that is no longer legally relevant. Legally, you signed the document and you owe the car company €30,000. That's the law, as far as digital signatures are concerned.

Without digital signatures, if your credit card is misused, by your daughter's dogy boyfriend for example, a fraud is perpetrated against the bank that issued the card, the bank made a mistake, they shouldn't have authorised the payment, it's their problem. With digital signatures, it's your problem. The risk has been moved from the bank to you.

Is that what you wanted, vous les autres les français? Is that what your parliament told you would happen? Are you happy to change the law and end up underwriting the banks? If the answer is yes, in each case, then my apologies for disturbing you with this irrelevant post, excusez-moi de vous avoir dérangé. But if the answer is no, you might like to have a little word with your député and ask him or her what on earth they think they're doing.

1 comment:

what is a digital signature said...

You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. Thanks for sharing !

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