Maryland recently joined seven other U.S. states to permit users to carry “digital driver’s licenses.” Under the program—which initially will work with Apple devices like iPhones—users can download a digital credential—a digital driver’s license—to their phones. The digital ID would be carried in the Apple digital wallet in much the same way as a regular ID is carried in a regular wallet. The digital driver’s license is based on the International Standards Organization (ISO) standard which is described more fully here.

Obviously, there are issues here related to the security of the credential, the degree of authentication necessary to obtain the credential, whether the credential can be simultaneously loaded into multiple devices and whether I can “loan” my driver’s license to my identical twin brother (yes, I have an identical twin brother). Moreover, for the credential to be meaningful, it must permit both local and connected validation—that is, a police officer needs to be able to check to see if you have an apparently valid ID at the scene of a violation or accident without access to online verification and they must also be able to validate the ID against some online database. In addition, we need to decide who has access to the digital validation protocols—police and other traffic enforcement officials? TSA or transportation security officials? The dude at the front desk of the office building? The bouncer at the bar? The server serving alcohol? The resident associate (RA) checking people in at the college dorm? Are there any controls on who can access these credential validation services and for what purpose? A digital credential is much easier to spoof (simply do a screenshot) if there is no ability to validate online. Moreover, the validation must be robust enough to work reasonably well offline—things like a photo ID, a watermark, etc. You know, all the stuff we put on the “real ID” driver’s license.

digital ID driver's license personal data

Digital Driver’s Licenses: Unintended Consequences