Is storing a digital driver’s license on your phone a good idea?

Joe Bosso 20 Jul 2021

Moving to an entirely digital wallet makes a lost or stolen phone an even bigger headache

One of the less publicized features of the upcoming Apple iOS 15 is the ability to add your driver’s license into your Apple Wallet. Without a doubt, it will be very convenient to store your digital driver’s license alongside your proof of insurance and credit cards on your phone. It would also certainly be great to seamlessly scan your boarding pass and your ID when going through a TSA checkpoint at an airport. So, what else should you consider when deciding if you should use this new feature?

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Many privacy experts have expressed concern that the increased ease of identity verification could lead to more vendors requesting ID from their customers. This would create another data point that companies or governments could use to track you online.

Another concern here is that Big Tech companies will further embed themselves into our daily lives. If at any point digital identification becomes a requirement, you would need to own a smartphone. Finally, by collecting all of your important personal information and documentation on your smartphone, you would be risking losing all of that information at once in the event of a breach. From a risk management perspective, this would be like putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Further reading:
Apple is improving privacy features, but is it enough?
iOS 15 helps normalize digital IDs

In order to better protect yourself, you would want to “diversify” where your personal data is stored, so a mix of digital and physical storage may be your best bet. There are data breaches from governments and corporations in the news, IdentityForce reports that there have been 31 data breaches so far this year. It is possible that the proliferation of digital identification and businesses requesting proof of identity will introduce a lot more opportunities for cyber criminals to steal this type of sensitive personal information.

Weighing the pros and cons of backing up your license

Some states in the United States already allow digital driver’s licenses, but still require you to carry a physical copy. It's clear that we are not far from being able to replace a physical wallet with a smartphone, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. On the one hand, having both a digital and physical copy of your driver's license ensures that you have a back up if you lose one copy. On the other hand, having two copies of your driver’s license could present additional opportunities for your ID to be stolen. If you moved to an entirely digital wallet, and lost or stolen phone is an even bigger headache.

It's all about personal preference, and you should consider the tradeoff between risks to your privacy and convenience when you are deciding whether or not to supplement or replace your physical ID with a digital version. Ultimately, everyone will need to weigh their options and find the right solution for them.

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