Imagine having your driver’s license actually on your phone, readily accessible anytime you need to show identification. Pretty ingenious, right?
Iowa recently announced that it is in the early stages of developing technology that will allow residents in that state to display their driver’s license on their smartphone devices, making it the first state to make it possible to show identification on a mobile phone. The state is investing $3.5 million on bringing this idea to reality, and state officials are banking on this being something that people want. Other states are also beginning to pilot mobile drivers license technology, or mDL, for the same reason.
But is this really a good thing? Certainly, from a convenience standpoint having your personal identification on your cell phone – something that we all have in hand for the better part of our waking hours – should be a no-brainer. However, when you begin to dig deeper at the risks it presents, a darker side emerges.
A driver’s license is a unique identifier to you and contains personal information that can be, and often is, used for fraudulent purposes, such as identity theft. Mobile devices are stolen or hacked with alarming frequency, putting the owner at tremendous risk for cyber attacks with devastating consequences. Now, with a driver’s license accessible on mobile devices, this makes it that much easier for someone to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information about you.
Those working on this new technology recognize the need for addressing the security challenges in this endeavor and are considering a number of options. In Iowa, there will be a “privacy” viewing capability that enables you to only display certain information on the license, such as age but not a home address when showing a bartender or doorman your ID. Officials are also looking at ways to manipulate the person’s photo to increase security and locating the driver’s license in a secure “container” inside a proprietary app on the phone.
The key to making this new technology work is balancing consumers’ desire for convenience with their need for security. These new mobile drivers licenses will be capable of doing much more than displaying an image of a driver’s license; they will have capabilities for transmitting information to state agencies and law enforcement and transactional activity, such as paying traffic fines. This will open up a whole new level of vulnerability for fraud. Consumers always need to consider the trade-off when technology offers a convenient solution.