New York moves to implement digital driver's licenses later this year

In certain transactions, such as buying alcohol, the mDL user does not have to show a photo ID but rather transmit encrypted digital data that would confirm their age.

Joshua Young North Carolina

The New York State commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Mark Schroeder, said in a February budget hearing that they were developing mobile driver's licenses (mDLs) as a possibility to be offered to New Yorker's later in 2023.

According to Government Technology, a spokesperson for the DMV said that it was too early in the process to talk about where or how" mDLs would be used but that the development phase on the digital form of identification had begun in the state.

The director of identity management for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Michael McCaskil, said that since 2012 the AAMVA had been working on projects to rollout mDLs and their efforts led to a 2021 standard specification for the digital IDs that was adopted by the International Organization for Standardization.

Unlike physical licenses, mDLs operate more like an app than a standard form of identification and are not exact replicas of the hard ID. An mDLs user can choose to share certain information on an need-to-know basis at their discretion in certain circumstances. 

According to McCaskill, "They can always back out of a transaction before they share data. Even though the devices are connected, they are always in control."

In transactions, such as buying alcohol, the mDL user does not have to show a photo ID but rather transmit encrypted digital data that would confirm their age.

"You're not giving them everything," McCaskill said. "You're giving them what you want them to have... What they're doing is implementing a solution that's better than their physical solution but the relying parties are able to trust it and accept it."

Nine states, including Delware, Utah, and Maryland, use that standard and have implemented mDLs. In those two states physical IDs are still provided and the mDLs are optional.

Utah began developing an mDL program in 2016 and the state legislature passed a 2019 bill that advanced the program. The program to produce mDLs for Utah residents went into operation in 2022.

Maryland went a different approach and offered their mDLs through Apple Wallet, unlike the stand-alone offered by Utah.

In both states, the process to sign up is similar, as residents must scan the front and back of their physical licenses, complete a few digital forms, and then pass a likeness detection test.


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