California DMV opens digital ID pilot program to the public

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Photo credit: CA Department of Motor Vehicles

CALIFORNIA – California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) opened its digital ID pilot program to the public this month. The department says the mobile driver’s license (mDL) offers a quick and secure identity-check at airports – without handing over your phone. 

“The mDL in the California DMV Wallet is secured through the use of biometrics and encryption, and meets the highest federal and international security standards, making it harder for unauthorized individuals to access or steal the mDL,”  said DMV Media Relations Spokesperson Anita Gore to NBC.

Drivers can download the mDL from the App store and Google Play. 

The app requires users to take photo scans of their driver’s license and face. Once the DMV approves the credentials, users can have their wallet’s QR code scanned at TSA checkpoints. The TSA website currently lists 24 participating airports that accept the mDL across the country. 

Photo credit: Transportation Security Administration

Wallet holders can also use the California DMV Wallet QR code for age verification to purchase products at select retail locations in Sacramento.

Law enforcement, state government agencies, and businesses aren’t yet accepting the mDL. 

Security Concerns

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has concerns about the security of the mDL given the lack of a comprehensive federal data privacy law. 

Our data is not generally protected and we currently suffer from private companies constantly mismanaging and unethically exchanging data about our everyday lives,” says the 2020 EFF article

EFF gives an example of an opportunity for an ID verifier to gather personal data about the ID holder.

“For example, if a holder uses their digital ID to prove their age to buy a six-pack of beer, the verifier might make a record of the holder’s age status. Even though PII [personal identifiable information] wouldn’t be exchanged in the credential itself, the holder may have payment info associated with this time in transaction,” says EFF.

EFF says this collusion of personal information might be sold to data brokers, seized by police, stolen by data thieves, or misused by employees. 

In addition, EFF argues that having a “digital first” identity should be a choice by the citizen – not a mandate by the government. Digital first is prioritizing digital methods and technologies as the primary means of gathering and managing data.

RELATED: Big rigs and buses made prior to 2010 no longer allowed on CA roads

Limited participation

The California DMV Wallet is currently limited to 1.5 million users. 

Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Hawaii, Utah, and Maryland have already launched the digital card.


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