One of the most overlooked features in Apple’s upcoming iOS 15 update is the ability to store driver’s licenses and state IDs in Apple Wallet. Eight U.S. states have already agreed to authenticate the digitized ID cards and will accept them at TSA checkpoints, taking an unprecedented step toward the next era of personal identification. But should you store your ID on an iPhone?
From a practical standpoint, storing ID on your phone could help you breeze through security checkpoints, check in at a doctor’s office, or verify your age at a liquor store. It’s easy to imagine a future where, with the help of an NFC scanner, businesses or institutions can verify your identity from your phone in less than a second.
This future may come with some security benefits. Young people could use Apple Wallet to verify their age at a bar while hiding their home address, as the app lets you limit what you share with others. And if someone steals your iPhone to use your ID, you can disable it remotely, or potentially track where fraudsters impersonated you. (Apple hasn’t confirmed such a feature, but it almost certianly stores ID usage data).
So what’s the big problem? Well, one major issue is that driver’s licenses and IDs will be easier to share, which may lead more businesses, websites, and government institutions to ask for personal identification. If that’s the case, then digital IDs could become a vehicle for government and corporate surveillance. Even if Apple refuses to share usage data with government bodies or sell data to advertisers, the businesses and institutions that scan your digital ID may be happy to comply. (Privacy experts at the EFF have raised this concern for similar technologies.)
Interactions with government and business could also change if digital IDs become widespread. Would you let a police officer take your phone back to his car? If businesses begin asking customers for ID, will they turn you away if you’re homeless and don’t own phone? And what will happen when the government refuses to authenticate your ID, or catches you using an expired driver’s license?
You’re probably wondering when we’re going to talk about hackers. But if encrypted digital IDs become the norm, then identity theft will be easier to catch and harder to perform. Plus, people can already steal your driver’s license and credit card info from your phone carrier, insurer, cable provider, or bank. Apple Wallet raises more questions about societal and government change than it does about data security—for now, at least.
Apple says that Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah will be the first states to authenticate digital driver’s licenses and IDs. Early adopters can use their digital ID at select TSA checkpoints, but will still need physical ID in all other situations. As such, we can only speculate on how this technology will impact our world.
The only thing we know is that people will use Apple Wallet to store their ID. The benefits are too just good to ignore, and widespread adoption seems inevitable. For this reason, the question of “should you store your ID in Apple Pay” is a bit silly—you’ll find yourself with a digital ID or driver’s license at some point. Keeping an eye out for any negative impacts of the technology is a lot more useful than avoiding it outright, although you’re perfectly justified in avoiding it if you want to.