Eight states to offer digital IDs on Apple devices

(Arnel Hasanovic / Unsplash)

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Apple announced Wednesday that eight states will begin offering digital versions of their driver’s licenses and identification cards compatible with the computing giant’s mobile devices. Residents of those states who own iPhones or Apple Watches will be able to upload their state-issued IDs to the Wallet app — which is also used to store airline tickets, credit cards, transit passes and movie and concert tickets — in those devices, the company said.

Arizona and Georgia will be the first states to make their licenses compatible with Apple Wallet, with the others — Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah —  to follow later, according to an Apple press release. The digital IDs will also be accepted at airport checkpoints staffed by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the agency’s director, David Pekoske, said in the Apple release.

The digital IDs will be available when Apple releases iOS 15, Jennifer Bailey, the company’s vice president for its Wallet and Apple Pay products, said at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The operating system update is expected sometime this fall.

In its press release, Apple boasted that its customers’ identity data is “encrypted and protected against tampering and theft,” and that its devices’ biometric tools “ensures that only the person who added the ID to the device can view or present their ID or license in Wallet.” The company also said that state-issued IDs stored on its devices will only be presented through encrypted communication “between the device and the identity reader.”

“Take that at face value,” Armen Najarian of the anti-fraud firm Outseer, which was recently spun off from RSA, told StateScoop. Although he said it appears Apple has “built the right encryption strategy,” there are still risks to the digital ID option, especially if an individual user’s account is breached.

While Apple has attempted to craft a reputation as a privacy- and security-minded company, iOS has over the past year been found to have significant vulnerabilities that could leave iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches open to targeted hacking. Last November, the company issued patches for three zero-day flaws, and another in July that, at the time, was apparently being exploited. So far in 2021, Apple has issued at least 13 patches.

The government officials quoted in Apple’s press release, though, were eager to begin offering digital replicas of their state-issued licenses.

“As we look to the future, we are committed to enhancing convenience and accessibility while maintaining the highest safety and security standards for our state and citizens,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was quoted as saying.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Transportation — one of the first agencies that’ll offer digital IDs when iOS 15 is released — said the Apple digital ID is “another example of the [Motor Vehicles Division] using innovative and customer-friendly solutions to get people out of line and safely on the road.”

More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have in recent years started issuing or made plans to issue digital identifications, stored in third-party apps.

Several of the states signed up with Apple, including Arizona and Maryland, had been dabbling in digital driver’s licenses before the Apple integration. Some states with more developed digital ID programs are not integrating with Apple just yet. In June, a spokesperson for the Colorado Office of Information Technology told StateScoop it was not participating in the Apple initiative “to avoid confusion and ensure an optimal experience for residents who use and accept the Colorado Digital ID,” which is a core component of a state-branded mobile app.

For now, Apple is not seen as a replacement for any state’s existing digital ID efforts. The Arizona Department of Transportation in March started offering digital driver’s licenses using software developed by Idemia, an identity-management vendor. The spokesperson said that initiative is not affected by the Apple news.

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Apple, Arizona, digital driver's license
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