Illinois ponders digital driver’s license

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Tired of carrying a wallet? Ready to go all digital, including your state ID?

The day may be coming, but it’s not going to be tomorrow or the day after.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has put out a what the state calls a “request for information” as the state considers the possibility of paperless driver’s license to be carried on a smartphone or other device, such as an electronic tablet.

There’s virtually no cost at the moment for the state to let potential providers know it’s interested in an endeavor and letting them answer questions and make pitches.

But the request, called an RFI in government, represents only the early stages of considering such an effort, secretary of state’s spokesman Henry Haupt said.

“This is in the very beginning stage,” Haupt said in an email, adding the secretary’s office is working with a state task force established by the General Assembly.

“Our office is doing our due diligence to look into the feasibility,” Haupt said.

A top concern, he said, is cyber security.

Another concern, he added, is accessibility and acceptance by law enforcement, travel hubs including airports and businesses outside Illinois.

One hurdle in that respect: There are no national standards.

Haupt noted the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is looking into developing guidelines.

States issuing electronic driver’s licenses would want to be sure, after all, that those licenses are honored by states who do not offer digital licenses.

And, of course, cost questions will need to be examined, Haupt said.

Iowa is conducting its own digital license pilot program.

About 100 employees at the Iowa Department of Transportation are part of the 90-day test that uses a mobile application, according to Government Technology magazine.

The test being conducted in Iowa isn’t all-reaching. For instance, participants can’t use their digital ID to prove their age to buy alcohol. But the test should give the Hawkeye State an idea of the scenarios likely to arise were digital IDs put into use on a wide scale.

The Government Technology article is available at HTTP://WWW.GOVTECH.COM/STATE/IOWA-DIGITAL-DRIVERS-LICENSE-PILOT-BEGINS.HTML.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has its own concerns, including those of privacy, and is keeping an eye on the test run, said Executive Director Jeremy Rosen.

One question: Would a police officer take someone’s phone with the person’s digital DL back to the squad car, as officers do with a plastic driver’s license?

A smartphone is the gateway to staggering amounts of information. What if an officer begins poking around on someone’s phone and essentially executes an illegal search?

Such things happen, Rosen said, adding illegal searches hardly originated with the digital age.

“We’re certainly concerned about what might be … unintended potential consequences,” Rosen said.

The potential for tracking — or the gathering of data, including locations, by government and others is another concern, according to digitally savvy libertarians, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Another potential issue: Should the day come when digital DLs become the norm and perhaps replace physical IDs, how will the government ensure accessibility to traditionally underserved groups such as the poor and the elderly?

As Haupt noted, Illinois is just starting to examine the issue. Companies who respond to the request for information may make presentations to the state in February.

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