Your Digital Driver's License Is Closer Than You Think


Friday, March 08, 2019   12.09AM / By AngelList /Header Image Credit: Edinburg Politics

For all the friction mobile technology has removed from our lives, government ID has seemed immune to advancement. Getting a new passport takes weeks, reissuing birth certificates is a pain, and the DMV is as universally hated as Windows Vista.

Finally, it seems state governments are investing in digital identity. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, an organization that works with the DMV on policy surrounding licenses, reports roughly a dozen states have piloted digital driver's license programs. Louisiana, for example, has the LA Wallet app, which as allows residents to drive and purchase alcohol using the app in lieu of a physical driver's license.

There are, however, serious hurdles ahead for digital licensing programs. How do you safeguard against fraud with digital identification? How do you ensure users can access their IDs if a phone dies?

Google, it seems, has a solution.

It was recently reported the company is working on an IdentityCredential API that would let users securely verify their identity via an Android app—even if their phone doesn't have enough power to fully boot.

Shawn Wilden, a team lead on Android, confirmed the original report and offered additional context. First, he addressed the concerns of privacy advocates, saying “The intention is to structure the (authentication) flow so that (an) officer cannot usefully take your phone.” If your phone is confiscated, it will enter “Lockdown mode,” which Wilden says, “means that fingerprint authentication won’t unlock it, and a password is required. This is specifically to force invocation of the fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination.”

Wilden also spoke to the future of the project, saying, “Passports are also very much in scope for this work... Driving licenses are the starting point, but the protocols and infrastructure are being carefully designed to support a wide range of identity credentials, specifically including passports. Of course, we’ll need to convince ICAO to adopt the approach, but I think that’s very likely.”

If Google can create a usable standard for digital identity in America, it could be both a massive boon for the tech giant and the beginnings of a new niche in the American tech market.


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