Is a Digital Driver’s License in your Future?: NMA Weekly E-Newsletter #476

Many states currently allow digital proof of insurance during a traffic stop. Will a digital driver’s license or DDL be too far behind?

After several years of testing, the state of Iowa will debut later in 2018 a digital driver’s license in cooperation with “augmented identity” specialists IDEMIA, a company that works with about 80 percent of all U.S. Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) on existing licensing programs. State officials have budgeted $3.5 million for the project. The DDL will be an optional not mandatory requirement for Iowa drivers.

IDEMIA spokesperson Jenny Openshaw says that Iowa’s new app-based (Android and iOS) DDL will work in all the typical places residents need to use traditional driver’s license identification such as during traffic stops, liquor stores/bars, rental car agencies and airport check-in.

Openshaw also said that the DDL will use high levels of encryption, including facial recognition, to access the app. The other dubious prospect for the Iowa DMV is that it can remotely revoke a person’s license if needed. During a traffic stop, police officers are expected to be able to remotely transmit a request for the DDL information from the subject’s smartphone. How many things can go wrong (literally) with this picture?

In 2016, Gemalto was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to assist four states, Idaho, Colorado, Maryland and Washington D.C. (Wyoming was added later), in the testing of DDLs.

In Maryland’s Phase 1, testers used their DDLs to buy alcohol at a major league baseball game, purchased lottery tickets, retail items and even used a DDL to clear the federal Transportation Security Administration security at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Gemalto expects Phase 2 of the test will involve using the DDL for renting a car or setting up a bank account.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), whose members include law enforcement agencies and DMVs nationwide, have already convened a working group to develop DDL standards.

AAMVA Director of Identity Management Geoff Slagle said he does not believe there will be wide scale adoption of the digital licenses by either states or citizens anytime soon because:

·    No standards are currently in place for the actual DDL and how it will be used on the smartphone.

·    Equipment capability for law enforcement to use during traffic stops needs to be standardized.

·    Consumer apprehension over technology and privacy concerns will continue.

Joseph Pearson, North American Sales Vice President for Citizen ID Solutions for HID Global agrees that privacy is obviously a concern. He said that four top attributes will need to be met before widespread DDL use will become a reality:

·    Needs to be functional offline. A person needs to use his or her DDL even when there is no access to the internet.

·    Must be easy to register. If motorists must jump through hoops to obtain a DDL, then no one will want to use one.

·    Must be easy to use anywhere. A driver must be able to use the mobile driver’s license right out of the gate everywhere just like a mobile wallet.

·    Must have the capability to use as a multi-use digital credential. This would allow the user to communicate securely about one’s self to whomever a person chooses.

A DDL sounds like it could be quite convenient but will it keep your private information private?

The various companies that are testing DDLs explain that the actual personal data that would be a part of any driver’s license will not live in the cloud but reside in the phone itself. If you lose your phone, the DDL app can be turned off remotely. Realistically, the DDL app will obviously have some connection to the cloud since it can be turned off remotely.

Also, what about consent. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that if police want to search a suspect’s mobile/smart phone, he or she would need a warrant. If a driver willingly hands over the phone to give the officer access to the mobile driver’s license, would that mean that the driver gives consent to look at what’s on the rest of the phone?

Digital driver’s license developers say that they will provide a command that locks the DDL screen so there is no possibility an officer can snoop. But what if the phone is seized before the driver can activate the command? What if a text message or a phone call arrives while the officer holds the phone? What if drivers want to use their phone to record the interaction with police or want to make a call or send a text during the traffic stop to perhaps their lawyer?

Convenience aside, the introduction of digital driver’s licenses raises far more privacy and rights questions than there are answers for at this time.

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