Mobile driver’s licenses are coming to New York state starting June 11th

New York has become the next state to introduce a mobile ID program, giving residents the option to digitize their driver’s license or non-driver ID.

Beginning today, the New York Mobile ID app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The app can be used for identity verification at airports. A physical license, permit, or non-driver ID is required to activate a mobile ID; you’ll need to take a photo of the front and back with your phone during the enrollment process.

The news was announced during a media briefing at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday that included New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder and Transportation Security Administration federal security director Robert Duffy, among other speakers. Their pitch is that mobile IDs “will revolutionize the way New Yorkers protect their identities and will significantly enhance the way they get through security at airports across the nation.” State officials are also emphasizing that it’s a voluntary option meant for convenience.

“When you offer your mobile ID to TSA or anyone else who accepts it, you are in full control of sharing that information. They can only see the information they request to see,” Schroeder said. “If you only need to prove your age, you can withhold other information that a verifier doesn’t need to see.”

Before today, fewer than a dozen states in the United States had rolled out mobile driver’s licenses. New York joins a list that includes Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Utah. Android and iOS both offer native support for mobile driver’s licenses in their respective digital wallet apps.

Indeed, the days of repeating the “keys, wallet, phone” mantra when leaving the house may be coming to an end — at least for some of us. In addition to government-issued IDs, smartphones have the capability to store credit cards and even digital car keys.

But there are inherent privacy concerns that surround digital IDs: they can potentially be tracked and leave a more detailed trail of where you’ve been (and for what purpose) than traditional physical IDs. Storing all of that data with a contracted third-party vendor comes with its own set of risks, and privacy advocates have called for safeguards like strong encryption and giving residents tight control over what data is shared where.

In January, the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter asking the DMV to pause any potential pilot of a mobile ID program and calling for more transparency, saying that the department’s efforts have largely been out of public view and warrant greater scrutiny.

“The perceived need for any program should be debated in public forums and include plans for technical and legal safeguards, including comprehensive privacy protections,” the group said. “Digitizing any identification system requires particular scrutiny and immense care, based on the harms we have seen across the country and beyond.”

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