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ID card bug could damage Estonia's IT image

E-votes are cast using a national ID card
E-votes are cast using a national ID card Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

A mistake caused by the Estonian Certification Center, the state-owned company behind the software of ID cards, means that 250,000 ID cards and 5,000 e-residency cards will not be compatible with new Google Chrome web browsers, and while the bug can be fixed, the damage to the nation's image as an IT pathfinder, is done.

The problem, which was revealed in September, concerns ID cards issued between September 2014 and September 2015, as well as the much publicized e-residency cards. The bug means the cards do not work on new Google Chrome browsers, although Google has postponed the changes for six months, giving the Certification Center until March to find a solution.

The next problem is that any solution will damage Estonia's image as an IT-frontrunner. The easiest fix would be to replace all ID cards and e-residency cards issued before the bug was discovered. This would not only prove expensive, but means that all e-residents would have to travel to their nearest Estonian representation, Eesti Päevaleht reported.

The cards, which come with printed certification codes, cannot be sent by post.

A second solution, currently favored by Estonia, is to develop software which fixes the bug in each individual computer used with ID cards. While this seems easy, it would mean Estonia asking many people, including e-residents, of whom many are industry leaders or foreign politicians, to download a program to their private computers.

Estonia has maintained that all ID cards, including those with the programming error, are completely safe. Renee Trisberg, an independent IT expert, told the daily that the bug and any software created to fix it, are safe.

According to the daily, the problem has now been acknowledged by the Estonian government, which feels that the faulty e-residency cards have created an embarrassing situation. This could lead to people questioning the security of the card.

Editor: J.M. Laats

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