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Mobile drivers licenses: A more secure digital identity

Mobile drivers licenses: A more secure digital identity

By John Cullen, strategic marketing director digital identity at Thales

Digital technology is ever-evolving and relied upon for many everyday tasks. Safety, convenience, and ease of use have been the key drivers for this trend, especially for transactions requiring identification. And one of the most used documents to confirm identity and proof of age is now going digital – the driver’s license.

During the last few years, studies and pilots have been conducted around the world to explore the technical feasibility of a digital driver’s license. For example, Florida has adopted the Florida Smart ID as a means to not only prove identity, but to be used in lieu of a traditional driver’s license too.

Digital driver’s licenses, also called mobile driver’s licenses, have been developed and tested to make sure proper security protocols are incorporated – helping to deliver advanced digital security alongside an incredibly convenient user experience. First introduced back in 2014, the licenses have now been adopted in multiple countries across the globe. In fact, Thales has supported the government in Queensland, Australia in launching its first digital license app across the state. Following pilots, the recent full rollout has seen over 500k downloads since its launch in late 2023.

The benefits for consumers and service provider alike

A mobile driver’s license is much more than a simple digital image of the physical version. That would be far too easy to tamper with or counterfeit. Instead, the mobile driver’s license uses advanced digital technology and high security coding known as cryptography to make sure it can’t be hacked, copied, or modified.

While digital driver’s licenses retain the key visual aspects of a physical driver’s license, displaying the driver’s personal information – name, address, date of birth, and photo – new standards are now used to allow the user to control what information is shared and displayed in each situation. These standards provide strengthened privacy settings to ensure confidential information is kept private. As a result, all personal details are kept safe and sound and cannot be accessed by third parties without consent.

For now, mobile driving licenses will not replace physical driver’s licenses but will exist as a secondary form of ID to complement these physical driver’s licenses. However, unlike a traditional driver’s license card, a mobile driver’s license never needs to leave the owner’s hands. A person verifying the driving license in the field will have access to advanced real-time authentication through a companion version of the application on an authentication device – either another smartphone or a reader. With this in mind, there are several key benefits of mobile driver’s licenses to end users:

  • Citizens have utmost control over the personal information they share, ensuring that sensitive data like address and date of birth are not disclosed unnecessarily. Having the autonomy to choose what attributes of their identity are and aren’t shared ensures greater user privacy and aligns with respectful and ethical data sharing practices.
  • Security is also prioritized by employing advanced cryptography, protecting against unauthorized access by bad actors. Thales is also developing its licenses in line with international standards like the ISO18013-5. Such guidelines outline how driver’s licenses should be implemented on mobile devices, with requirements on how they store and share information, and security and privacy parameters to ensure a safer and more secure digital environment.
  • Convenience will prove valuable for users on the road with mobile driver’s licenses. The universal mobile format allows holders to travel lighter with a driver’s license that is instantly available on their phone, and can be used in a host of verification scenarios. Citizens could also update their personal information or even renew their licenses directly through the application instead of visiting a physical branch, saving time and resources.
  • Beyond consumer advantages, law enforcement and third-party service providers will also benefit by being able to verify identity and privileges of users in a more accurate and streamlined process. Indeed, digital drivers’ licences can be used for services needing trusted and secure channels for receiving and validating identity. And with authentication taking place behind the scenes, it mitigates the need for manual intervention and checking.

The takeaways

Digital driver’s licenses are an inevitable step forward in our ever-digitized world. These will ultimately, albeit slowly, be adopted worldwide, with physical forms of identification becoming obsolete.

However, the Mobile Driver’s License must address four essential requirements to gain acceptance as a trusted digital identity. First, it needs to be accessible in both online and offline modes. Second, it needs to be highly secure to protect the confidentiality and privacy of user data. Third, it must also be interoperable between different issuing and verifying authorities. Finally, it should be able to manage data integrity throughout its life cycle – from enrolment to the in-field verification process.

The goal is to ensure a seamless transition while maintaining strict adherence to privacy and security. By offering governing bodies frameworks on how to make the move, cybersecurity companies can help to enhance trust in this exciting new technology.

About the author

John Cullen is Strategic Marketing Director Digital Identity at Thales.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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