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Iowa Launches An App For Your Drivers License

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Image Credits: youngthousands (opens in a new window) / Flickr (opens in a new window) under a CC BY 2.0 (opens in a new window) license.

We take our phones with us pretty much everywhere these days. This gave the Iowa Department of Transportation an idea – put the state drivers license on an app.

The app will hold all the same information found on a plastic license. State government authorities such as police and airport security will accept these digital licenses as valid ID.

A PIN is used to verify authenticity of the information. Department of Transportation spokesperson Andrea Henry alluded in a CNN interview that Iowa could possibly use fingerprint or facial recognition software to verify authenticity at a future date.

There could be a few issues with going digital, however. Adding your license to multiple devices is one. The potential for your phone to be dead right when you get pulled over is another. This would obviously make it impossible to prove you are who you say you are unless you can get some juice.

The DOT had set a release for the app on both iOS and Android in early 2015. However, it may not hit that mark due to several concerns, including privacy. The DOT told the Wall Street Journal that it is no longer sure on the timing.

Photo credit: William Petroski/Des Moines Register
Photo credit: William Petroski/Des Moines Register

There’s no way to lock the screen, should you get pulled over. A police officer could potentially feel they have free reign to search through your phone activity if you hand it over and let them check your license. The DOT says it is working on a solution that will lock the screen once your license is up.

The other potential hazard is in storing critical data on your smartphone. The original idea, according to the DOT was to make your information more secure. But this could make it easy for someone to take not just your cellphone, but your identification information right along with it.

The benefits are, of course, that it’s easy to pull up your license electronically. This means you can’t lose it as easily as a physical card. Also, there would be no more rifling through your stuff to find your license, or forgetting it at home.

Iowans will still have the option of sticking with a plastic drivers license. Residents will even be able to have both a physical and a digital copy, should they choose.

“Really, it’s about giving customers a choice,” said Henry. “We’re in an increasingly mobile world, and there are so many things that are connected to your mobile phone.”

This story was first reported in the Des Moines Register.

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