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US states & apple partner for digital IDs

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The US state of Arizona has partnered with tech giant Apple to incorporate a digital driver’s license and state ID with Apple’s Wallet app. On Wednesday VP of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, Jennifer Bailey stated that users can commute through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with “just a tap of their iPhone or Apple Watch.” The digital ID would include all the usual data located on a state ID or drivers license as well as detailed facial recognition scans, fingerprints and other information as “requested by the TSA.” According to Apple all a user would need to do is consent to provide information that the TSA requests using their device’s Face ID or Touch ID function.

Similar to tap and go for payments, Apple claims that it will be convenient to produce one’s device and move through airport security with “just a tap”. Apples devices have built in biometric features already which offer up more data than non-computerised driver’s licenses. The convenience may come at a cost though, as Apple admits that the TSA takes a photo of the user which is above and beyond what is needed to travel, just “for verification purposes” supposedly. At this stage, there is no opt-out option included in the authentication process, so user’s who wanted to withhold certain biometric data wouldn’t have that choice, at this stage. The TSA also hasn’t provided an explanation on how long, where or how the privacy of this biometric data would be guaranteed. 

Although Apple boasts that users wouldn’t have to physically hand their device to security staff and therefore therefore retain control of their device, but given wireless connectivity the possibility remains that other devices might be able to intercept the signal. Apple continues to insist that the data is encrypted, however after the fiasco of Israeli spyware firm NSO Group being able to implant Pegasus software into any Apple device, it does raise a few eyebrows.

It has also been announced by Apple that in September this year, in addition to Arizona,

Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah would also adopt this new form of verification. On Wednesday at a press conference Apple also added Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio, and Puerto Rico to this list. 

REAL ID documents will still be required to fly domestically as a US citizen until 2023 at this stage, and these documents would typically consist of photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a social security card is also accepted. 

Currently, Apple allows user to carry a digital copy of their Covid-19 vaccination status certificate in the Apple Wallet app, and the Apply Pay app adds banking functionality to users phones. The combination of digital ID, banking and also healthcare functions brings users closer to the World Economic Forum’s Known Traveler Digital Identity. This is a global ID system which aims to use a single card or app to combine banking, travel, health care and eventually a credit score. This system has been under testing since at least 2020, when international travel became uncertain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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