Interest is high, but Roadblocks include standards, infrastructure, relying party acceptance
State legislators pushing mobile driver licenses
While the Iowa project came out of internal discussions at the agency, other states are seeing legislators propose the idea. Delaware is investigating mobile driver licenses because the General Assembly passed a resolution asking the Division of Motor Vehicles to explore and consider the technology, says Scott Vien, director at the Delaware agency.
“You do so much with your phone and so much is moving to the mobile platform, driver licenses have been a missing piece and it’s something we would like to get ahead of,” Vien explains.
Kentucky Rep. Jonathan Shell (R) proposed a resolution in the General Assembly in 2015. The resolution didn’t come up for a vote but Shell plans to resubmit.
The 28-year-old legislator says that mobile driver licenses can add convenience, especially for the younger generation. “I’ll walk out the door to pick up pizza and get there and realize I don’t have my wallet,” he says. “But I don’t forget my cell phone.”
Even though the bill didn’t capture the attention of the General Assembly, the Joint Committee on Transportation held a hearing that discussed mobile driver licenses last fall.
HID Global executives testified at the hearing, briefing officials on the latest developments in mobile credentials. The company talked about its proof of concept for a mobile driver license and what is involved with such a project, says Kathleen Carroll, vice president of corporate affairs at HID Global.
States are looking at mobile driver licenses to increase security and convenience, Carroll says. Individuals have to carry around multiple IDs for different purposes – driver license, health care, work, etc. By placing identity on a mobile device individuals will only have to carry the smartphone.
Mobile driver licenses may also ease the burden on state workers. Instead of having to wait in line for a change of address or a license renewal, administrative functions could all be handled through the app. “Because there is a secure trusted relationship between the state licensing authority and the citizen’s smartphone, new services can be added and the need to stand in long lines can be eliminated,” Carroll says.
Privacy can also be increased with a mobile license. “A secure mobile technology platform will give citizens more control over their personal information allowing them to choose when and with whom they share their information, and as importantly, how much information they share,” she says.
The privacy enhancing aspect is attractive to many states and constituencies within states, says Frank Dean, transformation and strategy consultant at Mathtec, a consulting firm that works with states evaluating security and issuance options for licenses.
While developing a report for Florida, Dean interviewed bartenders, law enforcement and other parties that consume driver license data. One woman told him a story about going to a club where she showed the bouncer her ID to prove she was over 21. The bouncer hit on the woman, but she rebuffed his advances.
That night she saw the same bouncer waiting outside her apartment. Luckily, nothing more transpired, but had she been able to show something that proved she was over the age of 21 rather than a document with her name, address and date of birth she may have been safer. “The question becomes can we build the mobile ID in a way that we can verify age and nothing else,” Dean asks.
The same can be true of other applications as well. Dean talks about signing up for access to a local recreation center and being forced to provide his complete address. A mobile driver license could be used to just confirm that an individual is a resident of a particular town, without giving away the keys to the kingdom.
No more wallets?
A popular refrain when discussing mobile driver licenses is that the younger generation doesn’t want to carry a wallet. The logic seems sound, since we can already buy coffee, get on an airplane and enable access to work computers with a mobile device. So why can’t it also be used as a primary identity document?
For one, mobile driver licenses introduce a whole new crop of fraud issues to the table. “Anything in software can be hacked, and people are making a good living creating fake software,” says Steve Purdy, director of business development for Government Affairs at Gemalto. “There’s no way to have something on your mobile that can provide the look and feel of an authentic document.”
Real world driver licenses have an array of security features that can be examined to prove authenticity. Some cards have a different composition of materials that can make them feel different when handled. Still, even with real world driver licenses and the host of embedded security features, fraud remains a problem. Should we not assume that this fraud would also migrate to the mobile license world?
College students can send photos and a couple of hundred bucks off to a counterfeiter in China and receive valid looking documents within days. “Security features are good to a point, but fake licenses often include passable security features too,” says Dean. “If we’re going to implement mobile driver licenses by simply reproducing a card on the phone, then we’re going to have a fraud problem,” he says.