Ready for a Digital Driver's License?

Category: Privacy

The driver’s license is arguably the most important document in your wallet. It conveys not only permission to operate a motor vehicle, it actually gives you permission to exist officially and engage in commerce. Will a digital driver's license on your smartphone soon replace that card in your wallet? Here's what you need to know...

What Have They Done To Drivers Licenses?

While other types of photo-ID may be accepted as proof of identity, only a driver’s license draws no raised eyebrows or lengthy consultations with supervisors. A driver’s license is the gold standard of identification. Official changes to the format of driver’s licenses are rare and always controversial.

Following 9/11, the U. S. government adopted the Real ID Act, which establishes minimum security standards for the issuance and production of driver’s licenses, and prohibits federal agencies from accepting non-compliant licenses for specified purposes: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. As of May, 2018, 32 States and Territories are compliant; 23 have been granted extensions; and one is non-compliant (American Samoa).

So that settles things, right? Oh, no; having wrestled with physical cards for more than 15 years, we now turn to the digital driver’s license (DDL)!

Digital driver's license

Several U.S. border States and Canadian provinces have adopted Enhanced Driver’s Licenses, physical cards with embedded RFID chips containing the bearer’s authentication credentials. These cards can be read by scanners up to 10 meters away. EDLs expedite border crossings while enhancing national security. What they do for personal security is the subject of conspiracy theories.

Next, of course, is a driver’s license app for mobile devices. The Commerce Dept.’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a $2 million grant to security consultancy Gemalto to design and test a prototype DDL app in a two-year pilot program. In this five-minute YouTube video Gemalto lays out its vision for a digital driver's license app. The DDL is not intended to replace a physical license card, but to supplement it.

Merchants who need to “check ID” are enthusiastic about DDL technology because it eliminates the heavy legal burden they face each time someone presents an ID to buy liquor, to use an obvious example. Instead of relying on an employee’s judgment, a DDL is automatically verified against the state’s database. Your possession of the phone bearing a DDL is authentication of your identity, because it would be difficult to use someone else’s phone for long.

A DDL cannot be copied to another phone; it must be deleted and re-installed on a new phone by a state-controlled process. If a phone is stolen, the DDL on it can be remotely deactivated and a replacement installed on a new phone.

Digital Driver's Licenses: Coming Soon?

The state employees who dominate Gemalto’s video above are unreserved in their praise for DDL technology. That’s not surprising given the amount of money DDL will save their agencies. Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Wyoming and the District of Columbia are carrying out limited trials of digital driver's licenses.

I can see the convenience factor, and in a perfect world, how a digital license would be more secure than a physical driver's license. But it's not too hard to think of potential pitfalls. ATMs and point-of-sale terminals are hacked all the time, leading to large-scale identity theft and data breaches. Can we be sure that these DDL scanners are somehow more secure? Can we be sure that the DDL app on the phone is impervious to malware?

Your thoughts on the digital driver's license idea are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 24 May 2018


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Most recent comments on "Ready for a Digital Driver's License?"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Groman
24 May 2018

Well Robert, we are fat and lazy and want to make those infernal checkout lines lightning fast. After all we are always in a hurry to go nowhere. Great for law enforcement. This ID and a bank card could relieve you of you money at the speed of light. Oh wait; don't need a bank card anymore got a smart phone to pay (or play) with.

Lots of fraud potential. That's OK though; we can solve that problem, lets just inject this microchip into your body. After all you can't access your million dollar account without it.

As GuitarRebel said "666" is going to be tough on true believers.

Are you one? No!


Posted by:

J White
24 May 2018

No No No. Too hackable! Just another way for Big Brother to track your every move.


Posted by:

Frank Cizek
24 May 2018

I no longer trust any type of online "security". If they want another means of I.D., I'd be willing to have it tattooed on my butt! ; D


Posted by:

Bob
24 May 2018

EVERY person should be SCREAMING from the rafters to keep this from happening. There are still people without cell phones.


Posted by:

Annette N
24 May 2018

PLEASE - NO! I have had my personal information taken from the federal government, from my state government and from stores where I do business. So, tell me why this is a good idea. Tell me why I should trust this, please.


Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
24 May 2018

Sure, why not? WHAT could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Lots of things, actually. My financial records were exposed in the Experian breach, and all my military records (apparently including the forms that I filed for my top secret security clearance) were stolen by China during the OPM hack. My medical records have been stolen, and I've had to have all of my credit cards cancelled and replaced four times in the last three years. And with "Motor Voter", a lot of states are tying voting records to drivers' licenses.

We Americans apparently SUCK at electronic security. We need to have SOME physical, NON-ELECTRONIC forms of identification.


Posted by:

Linda Lindley
24 May 2018

Driver's license on my smart phone? In a world where it is only a question of time until the next layer of security gets hacked? What could go wrong?


Posted by:

Stephe
24 May 2018

I can't hold a driving licence due to epilepsy, don't have a smart phone because I don't see the need and value my privacy, and, fortunately, reside in the UK, so probably won't need a driving licence, digital or otherwise, to give me "permission to exist officially and engage in commerce" for a while yet.

The US seem to export these sorts of ideas even though, judging by the previous comments, virtually nobody actually approves of them.


Posted by:

Steven Bulger
24 May 2018

Then what happens if your smartphone has a dead battery and no way to charge it? Good luck with proving your identity! The physical product is always better!


Posted by:

Steven Bulger
24 May 2018

Then what happens if your smartphone has a dead battery and no way to charge it? Good luck with proving your identity! The physical product is always better!


Posted by:

Michael K Bonner
24 May 2018

All this is about $$$.If you can't pay,you can't play.Ordinary Citizens are the losers, with Hardly any security for us,but BIG Corp. are the winners,because they Always make sure they get PAID ! If they want to mess up someone,they Press a Button.


Posted by:

Chris
24 May 2018

No Way will I take the 'mark of the beast'; I'll be the first to die; or the second if some bastard tries to force it on me.


Posted by:

Doc
24 May 2018

It's nice if you have cell service. Or a phone. The two places I live don't have cell service - one is in deep radio shadow, the other is NW and N-Central Nevada where cell phones are worthless. Even in NE Cali, cell service is rare where I roam. BLM and USFS tend to often fix me out with their radio's if there's a problem or I see something I should not be seeing or find things that should remain hidden (though they like me to be on some kind of 'research' project. That is more common in summer than winter - winter is CB with a 1+K 'kicker' on it so I can get help - but KBx-17xx probably would not work on a DL, nor would my General Ham if i ever get it back - W6Bx. So are we suppose to go out and buy a phone just to be able to drive a car? That's more than crazy.


Posted by:

Jay R
24 May 2018

I hope that I'm first in line so I can choose 666 as my number. I wonder if we can get specialty DDL if we pay extra. This idea is almost as great powering mosquito repellents with carbon dioxide.


Posted by:

Surrelam
24 May 2018

I'm with Lee above. I do not like/need a "smart" phone. In fact, I always remember my dl#-that's all I need if I'm pulled over when leaving it @ home.And no one thinks I'm under 21 anymore.


Posted by:

miger
25 May 2018

A smart phone is an easy hack especially in a crowded environment like a restaurant


Posted by:

Jeanine
25 May 2018

Don't have a "smart" phone. Don't want a "smart" phone.


Posted by:

Richard C
26 May 2018

It seems as though the government has figured out a method to make me pay for my physical license, AND how to make me pay monthly (for a smartphone & service) if I wish to have all license features available to me.


Posted by:

Hardie Johnson
27 May 2018

So this will do away with all the variations in State requirements? All States will be the same? What could go wrong with that??


Posted by:

John O
29 May 2018

I read several times that young people are not driving until much later if at all. The drivers license will apparently be less universal.


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