Ready for a Digital Driver's License?
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)!
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 May 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Ready for a Digital Driver's License? (Posted: 24 May 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved