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Records request finds U.S. states mild about Apple mobile driver’s licenses

Records request finds U.S. states mild about Apple mobile driver’s licenses

In an example of just how charmed Apple is with its own genius, its executives decided the United States wanted to use iPhones for mobile driving licenses. They started a marketing campaign, talked to a few bureaucrats and basically waited for the world to be disrupted by them again.

The idea got coverage because it is Apple and the iPhone — not all of it breathless, including in this publication. But despite having worked on the proposal since 2019, there has been a noted lack of world disruption (by Apple, the iPhone or the iPhone as mDL).

One of the drier reactions to the news that Apple was getting into digital licenses came from Yuelin Li, Onfido’s VP of strategy.

“Apple has taken some encouraging steps toward making digital identity more ubiquitous and easy for people to adopt,” Li wrote to Biometric Update‘s Chris Burt. Bet Apple CEO liked getting his hair tousled like that.

The tepid market response had nothing to do with the many Americans who only want companies making physical licenses to have their personal information. Nor with the privacy advocates who point out more needs to be done to protect people’s data.

It had everything to do with the attitude that Apple executives have always taken when journalists and analysts question or find fault with anything emanating from the circled wagons at One Apple Park Way.

Apple knows how to design the hell out of hardware, but the last big software news out of the company may have been when it changed the simulated 3D app icons in its operating systems to flat icons.

So, the company with a market cap of $2.25 trillion reached out to a state here and a state there, and probably placed a couple FaceTime calls to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and kind of called it a day.

A software developer in the Boston area, Matt Zagaja, was curious to see how the campaign to get states on board its new digital ID was going. He filed some Freedom of Information Act requests, and the results were … tepid.

Muckrock, an organization that encourages and trains people to use FOIA requests, posted Zagaja’s account.

Having filed records requests with the motor vehicle agencies of 24 states, he found (scroll down) that some mobile driver’s license pitches were emailed to bureaucrats June 7, 2021, the same day Apple told the world that its next iOS update, 15, would hold driving licenses.

The most promising responses netted by the request were from California and Illinois, and showed that meetings had been held with Apple in 2019. (Emails are embedded in the post.) No further documents were discovered, so it is not known if things progressed from there.

Clearly, Apple has the money to invest in an effective campaign to inform every state in the union, and every nation in the world, for that matter.

Executives would have to overcome questions like:

Would this idea not, eventually, lead to people having to pay hundreds of dollars to legally drive a vehicle? Would it mean each mobile OS has its own mobile driving license? Would governments have to accommodate that complication? Would their service or platform interoperate with the services and platforms of independent ID firms already on the ground?

To which Apple conceivably could say, “We’re taking the notch out of the iPhone, and it’s going to change everything!”

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