Arizona offers iPhone driver's licenses. Other states want to be next.

It started out as a digital catch-all for credit cards and concert tickets, allowing anyone with an iPhone to navigate paylines and turn...


It started out as a digital catch-all for credit cards and concert tickets, allowing anyone with an iPhone to navigate paylines and turnstiles.

The technology then extended to registers of vaccine passports during the pandemic. And this week, Apple Wallet, an app for iPhones and Apple Watches that stores payment information and QR codes, added driver’s licenses for the first time.

On Wednesday, Arizona became the first state to offer digital copies of driver’s licenses and state ID cards in a broad partnership with Apple that has been announced last year.

The project is expected to span Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah, as well as to the territory of Puerto Rico. The initiative has been promoted by the tech giant and states for its convenience.

However, the expansion is prompting renewed scrutiny of privacy issues and Apple’s outsized sphere of influence. Few places will accept digital driver’s licenses when the program begins, and Apple hasn’t said when the other states and Puerto Rico will join Arizona.

In addition to the Apple Wallet initiative, Louisiana and Colorado have their own smartphone apps that offer digital driver’s licenses that are recognized by some law enforcement agencies. The apps are compatible with iPhones and Android devices.

However, Arizona residents should refrain from throwing away their old-school driver’s licenses and government ID cards. Digital cards will not be valid if stopped by the police or checked into a bar.

For now, digital licenses will only be accepted at certain security checkpoints at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that are operated by the Transportation Security Administration, a federal agency, officials said.

As of Thursday, the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles, part of the Arizona Department of Transportation, estimated that 11,500 people had requested digital copies of their driver’s license or ID card.

“If they like the technology and want to be an early adopter, by all means,” Arizona Motor Vehicle Division spokesman Bill Lamoreaux said Thursday. “It’s absolutely voluntary.”

Announcing the launch of the feature, Apple said residents of participating states can tap the plus sign on their Apple Wallet to add their license or state-issued ID card to their iPhone or Apple Watch.

The process requires entrants to photograph the front and back of their license using their phone’s camera and perform a series of facial and head movements, according to Apple. Users must also provide a selfie, which is sent to their state using encryption along with their license photos so that local authorities can verify their identity.

It was not immediately clear how much it would cost states to review applications associated with digital licenses, which Apple and state officials said would not create additional expense for people who use them.

At airport security checkpoints, people with an iPhone or Apple Watch can hold the device up to an electronic reader, which will then prompt them to use facial recognition, a fingerprint or a passcode credentials on their phone to consent to transmitting their encrypted information to a TSA agent, Apple said.

The company stressed that personal information is not stored on Apple’s servers and people will never have to hand over their phones to security guards.

But not everyone is so optimistic about the expansion of the technology.

“Apple is now trying to kind of vertically integrate your whole life into its phone,” Elizabeth M. Renieris, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame, said Friday.

Professor Renieris said that although Apple is known for its strong encryption technology, the company is on the verge of amassing even more information about the daily habits and activities of its customers.

“They’re standardizing the presentation of IDs and other identifying information,” she said. “This also comes in the wake of the conversation about digital passports for vaccines.”

Residents of certain states can request a digital copy of their coronavirus vaccination card which can be added to their Apple Wallet, which displays a QR code unique to that person. One such state is Connecticut, which plans to participate in Apple’s digital licensing program.

Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles deputy commissioner Tony Guerrera said Friday that the state is still evaluating the technology aspects of the initiative, including privacy concerns. The state does not have a timeline for the availability of digital licenses, he said.

“We just want to make sure that all of our i’s are dotted and all of our t’s are crossed out,” Guerrera said. “That’s why we’re not rushing into it.”

Still, he said, he can see the value of being able to store a copy of a license on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

“Look, in today’s techno world, I think there are many, many people who would love to have something like this,” he said. “Apple is a world-renowned company, and they’ve done their research, and they know people want this.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Arizona offers iPhone driver's licenses. Other states want to be next.
Arizona offers iPhone driver's licenses. Other states want to be next.
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