What you should know about new options coming for digital driver’s licenses
Some states, tech companies and even the TSA are looking toward having your government-issued ID on your phone
For many of us, our phones have eliminated the need to carry many physical things. Credit cards, car keys, hotel keys and boarding passes are now available in digital form. And now one of the last vestiges of carrying around purses and wallets filled with cards of all kinds may be on its way out.
Apple announced earlier this month that its iPhone will soon be able to house a digital version of a driver’s license or other government-issued form of identification. At its Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple’s vice president of Wallet and Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey presented Identity Cards.
“This fall, you’ll just scan your driver’s license or state ID in participating U.S. states,” she said.
While we don’t have that list of participating states yet, The Associated Press counts at least five that have already implemented a mobile driver’s license program. The AP reports Utah, Iowa and Florida will kick off their programs by next year. It’s likely those states with programs already in place will be among the first to use Apple’s new Identity Cards offering.
Bailey also announced that the Transportation Security Administration is working with Apple to accept digital ID’s in airports. “When you present your ID, you’ll know what specific information is requested and securely present it,” Bailey explained, “With just a tap, you’re off to your flight.”
The Department of Homeland Security is requesting public comment on best practices if it were to allow federal agencies to accept digital driver’s licenses. In a TSA news release, Darby LaJoye, executive assistant administrator for security operations, said, “The mobile driver’s license is one emerging technology example, and TSA is interested in exploring its incorporation into our identity verification processes.”
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report last month citing some privacy concerns. The report outlined that digital driver’s licenses should only be adopted if they are not mandatory, do not lead to ubiquitous ID checks and do use technology to protect privacy.
Apple’s news release claims that the “Identity Cards in Wallet are encrypted and safely stored in Secure Element, the same hardware technology that makes Apple Pay private and secure.”
John Shier, senior security adviser at Sophos, told Tom’s Guide, “If the implementation is secure enough to be trusted by banks and card issuers, it legitimizes the technology for other users.”
Arizona, Delaware and Oklahoma are all using an app from IDEMIA which takes steps to protect information. It allows “users to prove their age without sharing unnecessary information such as an address,” according to the company’s press release.
In Colorado, residents’ digital IDs have been legally accepted by businesses and state agencies as a legal form since 2019. In 2020, the Colorado State Patrol also started accepting it. But the state website does say everyone should still continue to carry a physical driver’s license because some places are not yet set up to accept the Colorado digital ID.
Louisiana’s LA Wallet app will house a digital driver’s license accepted by state police and can quickly identify counterfeit IDs with a touch-activated seal. As an added bonus, users can renew their physical license or ID through the app. Residents can use the digital credential almost immediately as it updates the very next day. An updated physical license will arrive in the mail at a later date.
Utah is starting a pilot program soon with 100 people testing out the digital ID system. It will broaden to the public later this year. A Utah Department of Public Safety news release claims the mobile driver’s license “will be the first in the nation that will incorporate the industry standards established for privacy, security, interoperability and authenticity.” The GET Mobile ID app developed the mobile ID within guidelines developed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
With all of the digital driver’s license offerings so far, the only person with access to your information is you. While someone could potentially steal your physical driver’s license, they would need either your PIN, fingerprint or face to open the information on your phone.
And while some may wonder whether they want their phone to literally hold all the keys to the owner’s kingdom, is it really any less secure than the breach of privacy that would happen if someone stole your purse or wallet?
I think not.