PYMNTS MonitorEdge May 2024

States Embrace Mobile Driver’s Licenses to Fight Fraud Amid Privacy Scrutiny

driver's license

In an era dominated by smartphones, the necessity of carrying physical driver’s licenses or ID cards may soon become obsolete.

Across the United States, the momentum behind mobile driver’s license proposals is gaining significant traction. States, as well as the federal government, are increasingly viewing mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) as a promising solution to combat fraud and bolster digital ID verification. 

New York, for instance, is gearing up to launch a pilot program for mDLs. Similarly, neighboring New Jersey has passed legislation this year in favor of mobile driver’s licenses and identification cards.

Illinois has also joined the growing trend of embracing mobile driver’s licenses, with Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias supporting Bill 4592, which proposes allowing individuals to display digital driver’s licenses and identification on their smartphones alongside their physical counterparts.

Furthermore, other states like Tennessee and Georgia are also exploring launching mDL initiatives, signaling a broader trend towards the adoption of mDLs as a reliable form of identification.

At the forefront of this movement toward digital identification are tech giants such as Google and Samsung, which are integrating mobile IDs into users’ digital wallets. Intellicheck CEO Bryan Lewis foresees a future where these digital wallets will serve as the repository for driver’s licenses and other government-issued IDs.

“Eventually digital wallets will be how we all do everything,” Lewis told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “The first time I got a smartphone, I said ‘one day, this thing is going to rule our lives.’”

And if IDs can be securely stored in a format that cannot be hacked, he said it will go a long way toward bringing the fragmented ID landscape together.

Indeed, the appeal of mobile driver’s licenses lies in their potential to revolutionize the way individuals verify their identities. Unlike traditional physical cards, mDLs can be securely stored on smartphones, offering convenience and accessibility. With just a few taps on their devices, users can present their digital IDs for verification purposes, eliminating the need for carrying multiple cards.

Moreover, mDLs are equipped with advanced security features that make them inherently more resistant to fraud and tampering compared to their physical counterparts. Biometric authentication, encryption and remote verification capabilities are some of the key features that bolster the integrity of mobile driver’s licenses, instilling confidence in their reliability. 

As PYMNTS wrote earlier this year, “the interest in digital IDs lies in the potential for digitized identity documents to serve as a critical tool in combating 21st century fraud, while providing a more foolproof and secure way of verifying identities across an ever-more digital landscape. That they can make everyone’s lives a little bit easier is both endemic to their use, and an added benefit.”

However, the widespread adoption of mDLs also raises pertinent questions regarding privacy, cybersecurity and interoperability. For instance, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Surveillance Resistance Lab have opposed the state initiative, calling for a pause on the pilot digital ID plan until thorough public debate or strong legal and technical safeguards have been established. 

“The introduction of mDLs—a largely untested technology and unprecedented data collection program in New York State—has the potential to undermine democratic systems, infringe on personal privacy, compromise equity and civil liberties, and exacerbate mistrust among communities wary of using DMV services,” the New York Civil Liberties Union said in a January letter addressed to New York DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder. 

Despite these challenges, the momentum behind mobile driver’s licenses continues to grow, fueled by the prospect of a more seamless and secure identification ecosystem. As states like New York, New Jersey and Illinois take steps toward embracing this digital transformation, other jurisdictions are likely to follow suit in the coming years.

In conclusion, the emergence of mobile driver’s licenses, harnessing smartphone capabilities and integrating with digital wallet technologies, marks a transformative shift in identity verification. As this evolution progresses, striking a balance between innovation and protecting individuals’ privacy and security will be crucial to ensuring widespread adoption.