Portugal has picked a vendor to produce a credit-card sized national ID card that can store biometric information such as fingerprints.

Gemalto NV, selected by Portugal’s Mint and National Printing Office (Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda SA), will provide the operating system, applications, middleware and help desk services.

Portugal wants the “Citizen Card” to contain civil identification, taxpayer, social security and health information. The card will contain a digital signature, legally valid for e-government transactions and protected by a PIN (Personal Identification Number), Gemalto said. The card uses the Identification Authentication Signature specifications, a set of European interoperability requirements, the vendor said.

The ID card application will use encryption for access to an e-government portal. Police authorities will have access to the fingerprint information through another application, Gemalto said.

A pilot phase started Friday in Portugal’s Acores region. The government hopes to issue two million cards a year. Portugal’s population is about 10.6 million.

In January 2005, Portugal’s government said secure ID cards were needed for national security. Immigrants from Brazil were buying fake Portuguese ID cards in order to go to work in the U.K., according to information published by the European Commission.

Portugal already issues a laminated paper card with the user’s fingerprint for identification.

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