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Austria launches digital driving licenses, its first digital ID, as US states align

Austria launches digital driving licenses, its first digital ID, as US states align

Austrians can now create a mobile driving license (mDLs) on their smartphones after the technical infrastructure is finally ready, laying the foundation for further digital credentials, announces the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. Meanwhile in the U.S., mDLs are seeing some commonalities emerge between states.

“ID Austria has not only developed a state-of-the-art proof of identity, it is also an important contribution to cyber security in Austria,” commented Minister of the Interior, Gerhard Karner, at the mDL launch.

“This prevents identity theft and puts a stop to cybercrime. The digital driver’s license as the first digital ID in Austria is a milestone on the way into digitization. I invite you — use the ID Austria and use the digital driver’s license.”

Citizens and residents are encouraged to download the eID (eAusweise) smartphone app and then register for digital ID and upload their existing Austrian physical (plastic) driving license, for free. Face recognition or fingerprint is required, but the announcement does not clarify why. Media coverage suggests this is to open the app, rather than for biometric verification at sign up.

The eAusweise and eAusweise Check apps were developed by youniqx Identity AG, which is the digital subsidiary of the Austrian State Printing House (OSD).

“With the eID app and the digital driver’s license, we have also taken the first important step,” comment Secretary of State for Digitization and Telecommunications, Florian Tursky. “The aim is to eventually make as many ID cards and documents available on mobile phones as possible.”

Users have control over what information is shown, meaning the credential can be used with more privacy and potentially for uses beyond driving such as proof of age. Even when used for driving, the user can generate a QR code which can be scanned to verify the holder is qualified to drive. If more user data is required, such as when hiring a car, the user can show more, reports Der Standard.

The mDL is based on eIDAS technical requirements but is currently only valid within Austria.

US states praise mDLs, digital ID as more roll them out and they begin to align

Although there is not yet national adoption of state-issued digital driver’s licenses, individual states keep rolling them out while singing the praises of their improved data security, reports Bloomberg Law.

National acceptance would need national standards for the design and use of mDLs and state IDs. This has not stopped states issuing them.

States praise their contactlessness and data security from users choosing how much data is shown depending on context. Privacy campaigners raise other concerns, such as a scan for proof of age somewhere potentially generating data on the holder that would not happen when showing a physical credential.

More common standards may be emerging via tech and politics.

Apple has partnered with some states such as Arizona and Maryland to create mDLs in the Apple Wallet. Louisiana has a standalone app, Utah will offer both the standalone and Apple approaches, notes Bloomberg Law. GET Group is behind the standalone app and is working with more states.

iProov is also working with several states and the federal government to help bring in digital IDs.

Most states are using International Organization for Standardization specifications to ensure mDLs can be easily read and trusted and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is helping states comply with this voluntary standard.

The Improving Digital Identity Act cleared the Senate Homeland Security Committee in late September, reports Bloomberg, and lawmakers in Congress are proposing forming a digital identity task force to produce a strategy for validating digital IDs.

This post was updated at 10:58am Eastern on November 4, 2022 to note the developer of Austria’s digital ID apps.

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