Apple Wallet Now Accepts Digital Driver’s Licenses, but Is It Safe?

Maybe keep your physical driver’s license for a while.

Apple just took another step on its only device(opens in a new tab) quest.

The tech giant announced on Wednesday(opens in a new tab) that, starting now, iPhone owners in Arizona will be able to add their government-issued ID or driver’s license to their Apple wallets and use the digital copies instead of a physical copy with TSA officials at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Arizona is just the first of many states Apple has said it has queued for its digital IDs — a promise that comes with its own set of potential privacy issues.

“We’re thrilled to bring the first driver’s license and state ID card to Wallet today in Arizona, and to provide Arizonans with an easy, secure, and private way to present their ID when they go. travel, simply by tapping their iPhone or Apple Watch,” Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president for Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, reportedly said in the press release. “We look forward to working with many other states and the TSA to bring credentials in Wallet to users across the United States. »

Next, according to Apple, are Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah.

Alexis Hancock(opens in a new tab)the director of engineering at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has expressed reservations about Apple’s plans.

“The main privacy concern I have is how ‘digital first’ will ignore scenarios in the near future where people don’t want to tie identity documentation to their devices if they don’t. not wish,” she explained via email. “The convenience value is certainly provable here,” she conceded, but she was concerned that the TSA or other enforcement entities “would overtake this technology.”

Notably, Apple first shared its plans to allow iPhone owners to store their credentials in the iOS Wallet app in June 2021. Arizona and Georgia would be the first to be accepted by the Wallet app. Wednesday’s announcement makes it clear that companies’ move away from physical IDs is progressing and that the TSA will in fact accept the Apple Wallet ID (at least in Arizona).

Apple was careful to insist that it had, in fact, thought through all the privacy issues associated with turning its phone around – the same device that holds personal bank details, emails and text messages. , photos, health data, physical location data and internet browsing. history – in its form of identity.

For example, for users who may not wish to hand over their unlocked phone to authorities, Apple assured readers that no transfer would be necessary.

“On their iPhone or Apple Watch, users will see what information is requested by the TSA and can consent to providing Face ID or Touch ID to them, without having to unlock their iPhone or show their ID,” reads the announcement. “All information is shared digitally, so users don’t need to show or hand over their device to present their ID. »

This assumes that every official asking to see someone’s identity is acting in good faith and, even if they do, somehow sharing the content of their smartphone with that official is quite different than that. a risky proposition.

“Apple has made sure you don’t have to unlock your phone, which is an ideal privacy-preserving feature,” Hancock added. But she pointed to worrying situations such as “being forced to unlock your phone, having your phone taken, or (being) forced to tap your device and prove your identity” as potential future vulnerabilities.

If use cases for putting government ID into Apple’s Wallet app grow, with iPhone owners trying to tell a policeman that, no, they don’t need to hand over their smartphone because Apple has developed a process to securely and remotely share credentials digitally. find themselves in a delicate situation.

And law enforcement is of course able to access the contents of many locked iPhones.

“I want people to have nice things,” Hancock concluded. “But there are a lot of factors in a digital first world that we need to consider at every step. »

Apple asks users to believe that it has, in fact, done everything necessary.