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Digital driver’s licenses to better protect privacy

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In the United States, some states are introducing digital versions of driver’s licenses, claiming that this will make personal information more private and secure

Indeed, mobile driver’s licenses are said to be more fraud-resistant and privacy-protective than physical cards. Digital credentials also offer contactless convenience, as licenses have evolved beyond their original nature to become a primary method of verifying a person’s identity.

« You hand over a driver’s license for many non-driving applications, from opening a bank account to visiting a doctor’s office, » said Christine Nizer, who heads the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. 

In addition, a mobile driver’s license controls what information is shared and limits it to what is necessary for the transaction at hand.

Thus, a person wishing to enter a bar, for example, could prove that he or she is at least 21 years old without revealing his or her date of birth, as well as other details such as name and address, by simply presenting a QR code to be scanned. 

Indeed, controlling the disclosure of information is one of the main benefits of digital identification for individual privacy. 

However, privacy advocates caution that such a system could leave a digital trail of where and when the license is presented, potentially allowing governments or companies to track individuals or their purchases.

That’s why Arizona and Maryland are among the states that have partnered with Apple to allow users who want to add a copy of their driver’s license to the iPhone maker’s digital wallet by scanning their physical card and taking a selfie. Google is working on a similar feature to integrate digital IDs into its wallet later this year.

Other states, such as Louisiana, have launched standalone apps to allow for a mobile driver’s license. Utah will offer both options, with an app made by GET Group and an Apple Wallet feature currently in the works.

Utah’s mobile app is designed not to interact with other apps on a user’s phone and not track data such as location. Similarly, Apple is not able to see when and where a user presents their digital ID from their wallet. The usage history of the ID is encrypted and stored on the user’s device.

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