Maryland state IDs and driving licenses are now supported by Apple’s Wallet app, making it the second state after Arizona to get the digital identity function in a report.
Residents of the Free State can now use their iPhone or Apple Watch at participating TSA checkpoints, including Baltimore / Washington International and Reagan National. The iPhone will not carry a “image” of the card, merely a method to communicate information to a receiving device — and biometrics will be used to confirm the information being transferred to the device.
However, digital IDs are not a replacement for physical ones. According to Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (basically, the DMV) website, law enforcement does not accept Maryland Mobile ID, so you’ll still need to carry your wallet when driving and even flying. For the time being, the only advantage of the digital ID is that your physical ID can be stored at the designated airports.
However, this is only the beginning of the digital ID revolution, and there will be some uncertainty along the way. So, if you want to avoid carrying a wallet in the future, then adoption will be critical. For Maryland citizens, instructional videos with the production quality we’re used to seeing from Apple are accessible on the state’s website to help with the push. This is most likely because Apple explicitly agreed to have control over the marketing and other components of the pact with each state.
There has been some concern that once law enforcement has access to information through these devices, they may turn their focus to your iPhone and ask you to hand it over, even though that is not how it is supposed to function.
Last year, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report on the “Identity Crisis” posed by a shift to digital IDs identified a slew of potential privacy threats that should be considered, including police access to people’s phones, user control over data, and even longer-term issues such as potential expansions in the information contained or requirements for use remotely. They filed a set of questions to the Department of Homeland Security, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), hoping to have these concerns addressed before the technology is widely used.
Adding a state ID to your iPhone requires an iPhone 8 or later running at least iOS 15.4, and an associated Apple Watch Series 4 or later running at least watchOS 8.4. Once you’ve met those requirements, press the + button in the upper-right corner of the Wallet app, pick Driver’s License or State ID, select your state, and then follow the instructions, which involve taking photos of the front and back of your ID. On a screen that looks similar to a Face ID setup screen, you will be asked to move your face in specific ways in front of the camera.
The data will be transferred to the state for verification, thus the ID may not be available immediately after the process is completed. However, once you have it, you will utilize it by holding your iPhone or Apple Watch up to the TSA check-in terminal. It will answer to your digital ID (in the same way that Apple’s express transport card works at the Metro or Subway), and then there will be an additional check on your device that will ask for your permission to continue.
Both Apple and Maryland claim that digital IDs are convenient and secure — and if the technology can be trusted, we’ll finally have a means to identify ourselves without having to pass over our personal information, which is often found on a physical card.