Using Mobile Driver’s Licenses to Verify Identity and Preserve Privacy in the Digital Age

Recently, GET Group North America’s Director of Product Development for Mobile ID, David Kelts, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services’ Task Force on Artificial Intelligence. The videotaped hearing on Verifying Identity while Preserving Privacy in the Digital Age focused on the importance of privacy, equity and freedom for individual identity documents as the need for trusted identity grows across the United States.

Kelts’ individual testimony explained the new Mobile Driver’s License (mDL) and pointed out the importance of governance of a mobile driver’s license (mDL) ecosystem to reinforce the values of privacy, equity and freedom, while allowing for innovation and improvement. He answered Representatives’ questions about security and privacy.  Below is a synopsis of his testimony from July 16, 2021 that calls on the Federal Government for light-handed guidance within a managed ecosystem.

Empowering Americans with a mobile identity document carries challenges, and must meet the values and goals of Americans. Protecting identity information, giving greater control and flexibility to the rightful holder of the identity and supporting accuracy of operations come with the goals of inclusivity and access for all Americans.

There are challenges to getting a mDL ecosystem started. Government identity card issuers must make the first move, as they are the signatories to the accuracy and provenance of mobile driver’s license data. Support for federal digital transformation that meets American goals can kickstart the digital identity transformation and ensure that privacy and inclusiveness is achieved. The decision to embark on digital transformation and issue mDLs has been driven largely by the desire to be technical leaders, or through legislative mandate. The mechanisms to fund the transformation have not come as smoothly, resulting in consumer pay models being chosen for technology advancement. In order to make this transformation sustainable and equitable, federal funding for the digital transformation is necessary.

Verifiers, or those who scan an individual’s mDL to confirm age or identity, also face challenges. Many businesses and government agencies will wait to invest in technology for contactless ID until a large number of mobile driver’s licenses are issued. Delaying investment can cause health and safety concerns. For example, restaurants have moved to contactless menus out of necessity during the pandemic, however, still must check a patron’s ID manually, handling the physical card and increasing interaction. Spurring innovation and the deployment of systems that accept mDL can bring contactless ID transactions into reality.

Identity, and the mobile driver’s license ecosystem, operates as the sum of many parts. The glue which holds together shared goals and values of such an ecosystem is a trust framework. Working with both government and private companies, a public/private trust framework can help achieve the goals and values of a secure and private mobile identity partnership.

Federal agencies can lead a digital transformation by accepting mDLs in a manner that helps protect the health and safety of their agents and the general public. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has led this kind of transformation, by investigating the acceptance of mobile driver’s licenses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security has invested in the development of technologies for online identity. Similar initiatives for in-person identity can spur innovation, fund new development and hasten the deployment of privacy-enhancing, accessible technologies for accepting mDL. This kind of initiative can complement existing efforts by adding in-person transactions that all of us perform with our identity documents – like making age restricted purchases and verifying ones address.

A public/private trust framework, working alongside secure technology industry experts, can help to bring effective digital identity technology into reality in a way that reinforces the American values of trust, privacy and security.  Without a framework, shortcuts could compromise our values.

To hear more from David Kelts and the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence hearing, click here.