Apple Wallet won't replace your physical ID anytime soon

Posted:
in iPhone edited November 2022
Apple has introduced a way to carry a digital version of your driver's license in your iPhone, but don't expect to ditch your physical ID in the foreseeable future.

You may want to keep your physical driver's license handy for traffic stops
You may want to keep your physical driver's license handy for traffic stops


Numerous obstacles are preventing the widespread adoption of digital IDs, from societal hesitancy to government regulation. More than that, general education, training, and technological limitations will likely be an issue for at least a decade. In other words, the feature might be flashy now -- but it won't be practical for some time.

Apple has been working on this concept for nearly as long as it will take to gain traction. As early as 2018, Apple filed patents around storing documents such as a passport, then presenting that information to a terminal via NFC or RFID.

In 2019, Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey said the ability to prove one's identity is the most difficult thing to digitize. It will require action from the government to make it legal, so digital ID will be a slow feature to implement. Later, in 2020, more patents were discovered covering authentication systems for digital ID. The device would pass data to a cloud provider for authentication.

Apple announced support for digital IDs in Apple Wallet during WWDC in June 2021. The feature will require per-state adoption in the U.S., and per-country adoption globally, for users to take advantage of it. Even when that does happen, there are plenty of other hurdles for the feature to tackle before it becomes truly useful.

Current digital ID implementation

Apple's digital ID implementation supports the ISO 18013-5 mDL (mobile driver's license) standard, which Apple helped develop. This digital ID format could be used by other operating systems, like Android, in the future.

Users will scan their physical ID or driver's license, take a selfie, then submit the data for approval. Once approved, the ID will appear in Apple Wallet.

Information stored in the iPhone's Secure Enclave include legal name, date of birth, sex, height, ID number, state, issue date, expiration date, Real ID status, and ID photo. Users can access the card and view stored data after authenticating with Face ID, but this won't be how the ID is shared.

When at an ID terminal, a user will tap their iPhone to the terminal and a data card will appear on the iPhone. The card will describe the data that will be passed to the terminal for inspection or authorization. Then, the user will authenticate via Face ID or Touch ID to transfer the requested data.

The digital ID system was built with security and user privacy in mind. For example, touch ID users will only be able to use a single finger for authentication, preventing unfettered access on devices with multiple people's fingerprints.

Only for TSA -- for now

You live in a state that officially supports Apple's digital ID implementation, you've added your ID to Apple Wallet, and now you want to use it. Even then, your practical use will only be with the TSA checkpoints at airports.

The new digital ID on Apple Wallet only works with TSA, for now
The new digital ID on Apple Wallet only works with TSA, for now


The use case is even more narrow than that, since you can only use your driver's license as a form of ID when flying within the U.S. So, yes, this feature will remain incredibly niche for the foreseeable future. Apple has yet to mention any specific uses for the feature beyond breezing through TSA checkpoints. That's likely because the TSA is onboard, and has been working with Apple on it.

Once Apple convinces every U.S. state to adopt driver's licenses in Apple Wallet, the obvious next step is opening up its use to other situations. There's no timetable for expansion -- yet. However, it's easy to imagine the possibilities.

Don't ditch your physical wallet

Anyone who sees the digital ID system sees the obvious eventuality that this could be used for all forms of ID in the future. In theory, it could be used for anything from proving your age to purchasing alcohol to showing your driver's license at a traffic stop. Again, Apple has not teased any of that yet, so don't expect to buy a beer with your iPhone anytime soon.

Of course, this all depends on widespread adoption and legal acceptance. Not only will states have to implement the feature, but governments will also have to allow businesses to accept it as a form of ID. From there, individual businesses or organizations will need to have the infrastructure to properly scan the digital IDs.

Physical wallets still have their perks, like MagSafe or AirTag implementation
Physical wallets still have their perks, like MagSafe or AirTag implementation


For example, laws will likely have to be passed for bars to accept digital ID as a form of legal ID. But, then, bars will have to implement a way to accept the ID, since you can't flash your iPhone display to prove your birthdate -- they'll need a terminal for you to tap.

That terminal will cost money to install at businesses, as will employee training. Apple Pay had some financial and legal incentives behind payment terminal rollouts. The digital ID does not.

Many of us invested in technology are excited by the premise of an all-digital future, but we live in an analog world that won't change anytime soon. So even if your favorite businesses accept digital ID, you'll undoubtedly still run into situations when a physical ID will be required.

Police and traffic stops

Almost immediately, people began voicing their concerns about how they would present a digital driver's license to police at a traffic stop. While we're nowhere near this eventual possibility, the concern is valid.

Using Apple's implemented system, a traffic stop would be straightforward. Per the system, you won't be handing your unlocked iPhone to an officer to take back to their car. Instead, the police officer would present a terminal at the driver's window, and the driver would tap their iPhone. The iPhone would say what data the officer is requesting, then the driver would verify via Face ID.

Unlike the TSA, police departments are independent entities, and it will take a lot of time for each of them to properly implement a digital ID system. Even with proper implementation and training, a police officer could still make the decision to demand a driver hand over their iPhone.

Concern surrounding police stems from ongoing problems with police brutality, discrimination, and abuse of power. Many people believe that police may attempt to take advantage of the digital ID system to gain access to personal devices.

Understandably, people want to avoid handing their iPhone to a police officer to present their license. However, Apple's system is designed so that your device never has to leave your person, and it doesn't need to be unlocked. Of course, it's up to individual police departments to train their officers to know that.

Training and funding are some of the biggest hurdles for police adoption. Each municipality has its own police department -- and there are a lot of cities, towns, and regions across the U.S. It's virtually guaranteed that training and technology won't be the same across all of them, which could complicate situations with digital IDs.

However, if this system makes people uncomfortable, no matter how it's implemented, it likely won't be mandatory. Default to your physical ID in any situation when using the digital ID might introduce a complication or concern.

In other words, adding a digital ID to Apple Wallet doesn't make your physical ID automatically useless. And in situations that could quickly become fraught, like a traffic stop, it'll probably still be a good idea to use your physical ID.

Keep your physical ID for the edge cases

Users will soon be able to add their driver's license or state ID to Apple Wallet. Are you excited to go all in on a digital wallet?

-- AppleInsider (@appleinsider)


If you're reading this, chances are you're the "tech person" of your family. So you'll be on top of Apple's digital ID program from day one and know the moment it goes live in your state.

However, most people do not follow tech that closely. Implementing technology on a societal level can take years, if not decades. Recall how slow adoption for Apple Pay has been in the U.S. -- we still encounter the occasional clerk who's never seen it before.

Amplify that further for using digital ID in Apple Wallet. Even after your state implements the feature, it will take a very long time for businesses to become aware of it, let alone accept it.

Even if you find that everywhere you go in your local area accepts your digital ID, travel one town over without a physical ID, and you could be in trouble. Therefore, we recommend keeping a physical ID in your vehicle, if not on your person, for the foreseeable future.

Digital vaccine cards prove implementation difficulties

Vaccine proofs use QR codes within an app
Vaccine proofs use QR codes within an app


Just like digitizing an ID, digitizing a medical record such as a vaccine proof has become a difficult challenge to overcome. Each state or country has employed different developers to add vaccine proofs to websites and apps.

This has allowed some people to carry proof of their COVID vaccine on their person without having to keep up and protect a paper card. Presenting that information can leave a lot to be desired from a security standpoint.

Ideally, Apple's digital ID system could expand to include other forms of data like medical records, but developers aren't hopeless today. There are systems in place that allow third-party apps and websites to add secure cards to the Apple Wallet, they just have to be implemented.

Users can take some extra steps to ensure their COVID vaccine proof is all that is accessible when handing over a device, however. By utilizing system features and Shortcuts, a user's vaccine proof can be presented securely with a single tap.

If getting a simple vaccination proof to show up securely presents a challenge to the United States as a whole, it proves that something as heavily regulated as a driver's license will take enormous hurdles to implement.

What to expect for digital ID

All that being said, nothing has been implemented yet. The feature will slowly roll out over the coming years with minimal, if any, adoption across the U.S.

Good intentions and government support aren't everything, as with exposure notifications
Good intentions and government support aren't everything, as with exposure notifications


Digital ID will first launch in Georgia and Arizona, with six other states sometime after. Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah promised support on an unknown timeline.

Apple has only announced the TSA partnership and hasn't hinted at anything more. So, there is always a chance that Apple doesn't intend on expanding digital ID beyond minimal use cases.

States spokespeople seem to be looking ahead, however, as nearly all of their testimonials in Apple's PR mention looking forward to what's next. But cooperation from state governments doesn't mean everything.

There is a perfect example to look to for how tech companies and governments can work together, and still get nowhere -- exposure notifications. The controversies and political nature surrounding COVID-19 may have limited adoption of exposure notifications, but digital ID may face similar headwinds.

However, it is essential to understand that unlike a debit card in Apple Pay, you can't just go without a physical form of ID and hope it just works out. Practically speaking, you don't want to be caught without a valid ID just because you want to be an early adopter.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    Good article — it’s definitely going to be a decade+ until you can reliably leave your plastic ID at home.  

    An Android developer involved with the ISO standard on which this is based posted this:  https://github.com/google/mdl-ref-apps

    It’s an app that “validates” one of these IDs. And, for anyone who is curious how the data flow works: https://link.medium.com/JqfB9CJuejb
    muthuk_vanalingamcaladanian
  • Reply 2 of 17
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 934member
    That this iteration requires a specialized reader to receive the encrypted signal from the iPhone makes a delay in universal adoption very likely. This isn’t anything like simply having my Starbucks card ready to scan when I walk in the shop. 

    I’m thinking like ApplePay: the need for new point of use hardware is a real barrier. 
    edited September 2021
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Governments and municipalities have a hard time with current operating cost, the outlay for purchasing and training for readers/scanners will delay this for a very long time I would think.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    Btw, I feel sorry for LA citizens … they financed an app development studio in Baton Rouge to create some proprietary ID system and now this Apple/Google standard is here.

    I imagine LA is in for similar experience as we saw with Apple Pay vs. other-crazy-pay-thing
    caladanian
  • Reply 5 of 17
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 

    I live in Brazil and I don’t carry anything but my iPhone with me. Really. My drivers license and car registration is on my phone. All my cards are on the wallet. I don’t need anything else. 
    the1maximuscaladanian
  • Reply 6 of 17
    garfolino said:
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 
    For anything that requires voluntary consistency/coordination between States, we suck — each State wants to build its own special mousetrap (see: Louisiana) … unfortunately, this is almost by design due to the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.

    Without the support / involvement of the TSA (a federal entity), the 50 States would never voluntarily adopt a single, standard way of doing digital ID — here, the fact TSA is involved gives us some shot at a single standard being adopted.
    edited September 2021 caladanian
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Good article — it’s definitely going to be a decade+ until you can reliably leave your plastic ID at home.
    I already leave my driver's license at home.
    The MyColorado app contains my license and is legal.
  • Reply 8 of 17
    Good article — it’s definitely going to be a decade+ until you can reliably leave your plastic ID at home.
    I already leave my driver's license at home.
    The MyColorado app contains my license and is legal.
    As long as you stay in Colorado and every store you go to uses it ……
  • Reply 9 of 17
    entropysentropys Posts: 4,196member
    garfolino said:
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 
    For anything that requires voluntary consistency/coordination between States, we suck — each State wants to build its own special mousetrap (see: Louisiana) … unfortunately, this is almost by design due to the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.

    Without the support / involvement of the TSA (a federal entity), the 50 States would never voluntarily adopt a single, standard way of doing digital ID — here, the fact TSA is involved gives us some shot at a single standard being adopted.
    You do realise that weakness you describe us also one of you Americans’ strength, the kind of independence and limits on government that made your country the most powerful in the world? It sometimes may take longer, but in the end the solution is stronger.  I guess for some  it sometimes takes too long getting to their version of utopia as quick as possible.

    it is no coincidence  your resourcefulness is in decline with the growth of the regulation and oversight of the people of your government.
    rare
  • Reply 10 of 17
    Reading the article another scenario occurred to me.   It's a take off on the fairly rare instances where the terminal would not accept my ApplePay -- with the clerk advising:  "Tap on the other corner" etc...

    Officer:  Please tap your phone on my terminal so I can get your ID.
    Victim:   tap, tap, tap....
    Officer:  Try the other corner
    Victim:   tap, tap, tap....
    Officer:  Step out of the car and put your hands behind your back
  • Reply 11 of 17
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,370member
    I got pulled over by an unmarked car here in Japan some months back.  It just so happened that my wallet had fallen out of my back pocket at home earlier that day at home as I was putting on my trousers.  Of course, I never even noticed that until I was pulled over.  I had my iPhone with me but not my wallet which has my driver's license.  The two cops asked if I could present them with my license another way, and I said yes.  I called my wife and she shot front and back photos of my driver's license and sent that photo to my iPhone.  The cops accepted that as real and thanked me.  They then turned right around and ticketed me for failure to have the physical driver's license.  While it is true that law is on the books, and failure to show the real license even in cases like mine are no excuse, the fact is cops have the right to give a ticket or not.  They chose to ticket, even though they knew the license was real on my iPhone display.

    To think that we will ever have common sense laws that allow presentation of a digital license is insane.  The entire system is built on stupidity and quotas.  They want to nail people not to make roads safer, but to fill the quotas and the money boxes with cash.  Elected officials do nothing to change this because they put those stupid laws on the books in the first place, and the general populace largely turn a blind eye to the goings on.  Thankfully, I wasn't targeted in any other way, perhaps because I am fair complexioned US citizen.  Technically it was my fault since my wallet fell from my pocket unnoticed by me until I was actually pulled over, but like I said, cops have the right to follow the letter or the spirit of the law.  This dynamic duo chose the hardline letter of the law.

    It's a great dream to have, but what if we have all those IDs on the phone but we forget the phone?  Personally, I want the ability to simply do a finger print or retina scan for them to verify my identity, see I have a valid license and then go about their job without all the foolish "you don't have a paper license so you have to pay extra" idiocy.  Lawmakers are to blame for this because they are the ones who put such laws on the books which the cops gleefully enforce.  That's true in the US, Japan and most countries around the world.  Digital IDs on iPhones isn't the ultimate solution to these problems.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    jdw said:
    I got pulled over by an unmarked car here in Japan some months back.  It just so happened that my wallet had fallen out of my back pocket at home earlier that day at home as I was putting on my trousers.  Of course, I never even noticed that until I was pulled over.  I had my iPhone with me but not my wallet which has my driver's license.  The two cops asked if I could present them with my license another way, and I said yes.  I called my wife and she shot front and back photos of my driver's license and sent that photo to my iPhone.  The cops accepted that as real and thanked me.  They then turned right around and ticketed me for failure to have the physical driver's license.  While it is true that law is on the books, and failure to show the real license even in cases like mine are no excuse, the fact is cops have the right to give a ticket or not.  They chose to ticket, even though they knew the license was real on my iPhone display.

    To think that we will ever have common sense laws that allow presentation of a digital license is insane.  The entire system is built on stupidity and quotas.  They want to nail people not to make roads safer, but to fill the quotas and the money boxes with cash.  Elected officials do nothing to change this because they put those stupid laws on the books in the first place, and the general populace largely turn a blind eye to the goings on.  Thankfully, I wasn't targeted in any other way, perhaps because I am fair complexioned US citizen.  Technically it was my fault since my wallet fell from my pocket unnoticed by me until I was actually pulled over, but like I said, cops have the right to follow the letter or the spirit of the law.  This dynamic duo chose the hardline letter of the law.

    It's a great dream to have, but what if we have all those IDs on the phone but we forget the phone?  Personally, I want the ability to simply do a finger print or retina scan for them to verify my identity, see I have a valid license and then go about their job without all the foolish "you don't have a paper license so you have to pay extra" idiocy.  Lawmakers are to blame for this because they are the ones who put such laws on the books which the cops gleefully enforce.  That's true in the US, Japan and most countries around the world.  Digital IDs on iPhones isn't the ultimate solution to these problems.
    The walls would be covered with blood and brains as Libertarian heads exploded.

  • Reply 13 of 17
    jdwjdw Posts: 1,370member
    jdw said:
    I got pulled over by an unmarked car here in Japan some months back.  It just so happened that my wallet had fallen out of my back pocket at home earlier that day at home as I was putting on my trousers.  Of course, I never even noticed that until I was pulled over.  I had my iPhone with me but not my wallet which has my driver's license.  The two cops asked if I could present them with my license another way, and I said yes.  I called my wife and she shot front and back photos of my driver's license and sent that photo to my iPhone.  The cops accepted that as real and thanked me.  They then turned right around and ticketed me for failure to have the physical driver's license.  While it is true that law is on the books, and failure to show the real license even in cases like mine are no excuse, the fact is cops have the right to give a ticket or not.  They chose to ticket, even though they knew the license was real on my iPhone display.

    To think that we will ever have common sense laws that allow presentation of a digital license is insane.  The entire system is built on stupidity and quotas.  They want to nail people not to make roads safer, but to fill the quotas and the money boxes with cash.  Elected officials do nothing to change this because they put those stupid laws on the books in the first place, and the general populace largely turn a blind eye to the goings on.  Thankfully, I wasn't targeted in any other way, perhaps because I am fair complexioned US citizen.  Technically it was my fault since my wallet fell from my pocket unnoticed by me until I was actually pulled over, but like I said, cops have the right to follow the letter or the spirit of the law.  This dynamic duo chose the hardline letter of the law.

    It's a great dream to have, but what if we have all those IDs on the phone but we forget the phone?  Personally, I want the ability to simply do a finger print or retina scan for them to verify my identity, see I have a valid license and then go about their job without all the foolish "you don't have a paper license so you have to pay extra" idiocy.  Lawmakers are to blame for this because they are the ones who put such laws on the books which the cops gleefully enforce.  That's true in the US, Japan and most countries around the world.  Digital IDs on iPhones isn't the ultimate solution to these problems.
    The walls would be covered with blood and brains as Libertarian heads exploded.

    Your statement is not clear.  I can only assume you are saying that in response to my desire to do a fingerprint scan or retina scan to confirm my identity rather than face fines for not having a paper license.  

    First, there is no such thing as the Libertarian party in Japan.  They are all socialists or communists to some degree.  There are a surprising number of communists here, despite the fact Japan doesn't get along well at all with communist China or communist North Korea.  

    Next, when I first came to Japan in 1994, the police came to take my fingerprints within the first week I was here.  I kid you not.  So they've had me on file ever since.  Also, when the cops pull you over for any traffic violation, they fingerprint you (Japanese citizen or not).  That fingerprint is the part of your "signature" when you are forced to sign the ticket they gave you.  

    So because I have to live with this craziness, I might as well seek to get some relief from lawmakers who hate the general populace so much that they impose stupid fines for not having a ridiculous paper license on your person at the time you get pulled over.  It's 2021, not 1951.  But lawmakers and the cops love the current system because they make money off it.  It's all about the money.  The cops here never let you off for any reason either.  That's not merely because they are strict legalists, but because they are forced to fill quotas and make money.  Again, it's all about the money.
    GeorgeBMacrare
  • Reply 14 of 17
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    jdw said:
    jdw said:
    I got pulled over by an unmarked car here in Japan some months back.  It just so happened that my wallet had fallen out of my back pocket at home earlier that day at home as I was putting on my trousers.  Of course, I never even noticed that until I was pulled over.  I had my iPhone with me but not my wallet which has my driver's license.  The two cops asked if I could present them with my license another way, and I said yes.  I called my wife and she shot front and back photos of my driver's license and sent that photo to my iPhone.  The cops accepted that as real and thanked me.  They then turned right around and ticketed me for failure to have the physical driver's license.  While it is true that law is on the books, and failure to show the real license even in cases like mine are no excuse, the fact is cops have the right to give a ticket or not.  They chose to ticket, even though they knew the license was real on my iPhone display.

    To think that we will ever have common sense laws that allow presentation of a digital license is insane.  The entire system is built on stupidity and quotas.  They want to nail people not to make roads safer, but to fill the quotas and the money boxes with cash.  Elected officials do nothing to change this because they put those stupid laws on the books in the first place, and the general populace largely turn a blind eye to the goings on.  Thankfully, I wasn't targeted in any other way, perhaps because I am fair complexioned US citizen.  Technically it was my fault since my wallet fell from my pocket unnoticed by me until I was actually pulled over, but like I said, cops have the right to follow the letter or the spirit of the law.  This dynamic duo chose the hardline letter of the law.

    It's a great dream to have, but what if we have all those IDs on the phone but we forget the phone?  Personally, I want the ability to simply do a finger print or retina scan for them to verify my identity, see I have a valid license and then go about their job without all the foolish "you don't have a paper license so you have to pay extra" idiocy.  Lawmakers are to blame for this because they are the ones who put such laws on the books which the cops gleefully enforce.  That's true in the US, Japan and most countries around the world.  Digital IDs on iPhones isn't the ultimate solution to these problems.
    The walls would be covered with blood and brains as Libertarian heads exploded.

    Your statement is not clear.  I can only assume you are saying that in response to my desire to do a fingerprint scan or retina scan to confirm my identity rather than face fines for not having a paper license.  

    First, there is no such thing as the Libertarian party in Japan.  They are all socialists or communists to some degree.  There are a surprising number of communists here, despite the fact Japan doesn't get along well at all with communist China or communist North Korea.  

    Next, when I first came to Japan in 1994, the police came to take my fingerprints within the first week I was here.  I kid you not.  So they've had me on file ever since.  Also, when the cops pull you over for any traffic violation, they fingerprint you (Japanese citizen or not).  That fingerprint is the part of your "signature" when you are forced to sign the ticket they gave you.  

    So because I have to live with this craziness, I might as well seek to get some relief from lawmakers who hate the general populace so much that they impose stupid fines for not having a ridiculous paper license on your person at the time you get pulled over.  It's 2021, not 1951.  But lawmakers and the cops love the current system because they make money off it.  It's all about the money.  The cops here never let you off for any reason either.  That's not merely because they are strict legalists, but because they are forced to fill quotas and make money.  Again, it's all about the money.

    I was -- that's why I highlighted it in the quote.
    And, I was thinking of the extremists in the U.S. and on this forum.

    In any case, thanks for expanding on the situation in Japan.  That was informative.
    jdw
  • Reply 15 of 17
    roakeroake Posts: 816member
    garfolino said:
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 

    I live in Brazil and I don’t carry anything but my iPhone with me. Really. My drivers license and car registration is on my phone. All my cards are on the wallet. I don’t need anything else. 
    And if your battery dies…?
  • Reply 16 of 17
    roake said:
    garfolino said:
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 

    I live in Brazil and I don’t carry anything but my iPhone with me. Really. My drivers license and car registration is on my phone. All my cards are on the wallet. I don’t need anything else. 
    And if your battery dies…?

    I can't remember the last time the battery on my phone died.   It's been years.  I think the last time was with my iPhone 6+ before Apple instituted their infamous slow down to prevent premature shutdowns.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    roake said:
    garfolino said:
    It’s crazy how the US is so advanced in pretty much anything but it isn’t on some others. 

    I live in Brazil and I don’t carry anything but my iPhone with me. Really. My drivers license and car registration is on my phone. All my cards are on the wallet. I don’t need anything else. 
    And if your battery dies…?
    Plug it in.
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