Apple’s plan to digitize your wallet is slowly taking shape. What started with boarding passes and venue tickets later became credit cards, subway tickets and student IDs. Next on Apple’s list to digitize are driver’s licenses and state IDs, which it plans to support in its iOS 15 update expected out later this year.
But to get there it needs help from state governments, since it’s the states that issue driver’s licenses and other forms of state identification, and every state issues IDs differently. Apple said today it has so far secured two states, Arizona and Georgia, to bring digital driver’s license and state IDs.
Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah are expected to follow, but a timeline for rolling out wasn’t given.
Apple said in June that it would begin supporting digital licenses and IDs, and that the TSA would be the first agency to begin accepting a digital license from an iPhone at several airports, since only a state ID is required for traveling by air domestically within the United States. The TSA will allow you to present your digital wallet by tapping it on an identity reader. Apple says the feature is secure and doesn’t require handing over or unlocking your phone.
The digital license and ID data is stored on your iPhone but a driver’s license must be verified by the participating state. That has to happen at scale and speed to support millions of drivers and travelers while preventing fake IDs from making it through.
The goal of digitizing licenses and IDs is convenience, rather than fixing a particular problem. But the move hasn’t exactly drawn confidence from privacy experts, who bemoan Apple’s lack of transparency about how it built this technology and what it ultimately gets out of it.
Apple still has not said much about how the digital ID technology works, or what data a state government obtains as part of the process to enroll a digital license on an iPhone. Apple is also working on a new but unannounced security verification feature that takes selfies to validate the user, apparently to prevent someone else from using the license without permission. It’s not to say these systems aren’t inherently problematic or flawed, but there are privacy questions that Apple will have to address down the line.
But the fragmented picture of digital licenses and IDs across the U.S. isn’t likely to get less murky overnight, even after Apple enters the picture. A recent public records request by MuckRock showed Apple was in contact with some states as early as 2019 about bringing digital licenses and IDs to iPhones, including California and Illinois, yet neither state has been announced by Apple today.