Apple Wants You To Upload Your ID to Your iPhone

Storing a lot of personal information on your device can generally be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.
September 2, 2021, 2:17pm
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Apple is rolling out new capabilities for the Apple Wallet, raising some questions about how secure adding more personal information to your device can be. 

According to Apple's announcement on Wednesday, customers in select states will be able to upload their state ID or driver’s license to their Apple Wallet in order to get through airport security. Select airports in Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Utah will be the first to participate in this rollout. 

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Similar to adding a credit card, customers can scan their physical license or identification card to add it to their Apple device. They’ll also be prompted to add it to their Apple Watch if it’s connected. However, this process also requires the customer to take a selfie which will then be sent to the issuing state for further verification before it is formally added to the wallet. 

Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, said this update is the next step in the company’s “vision” to entirely replace physical wallets. 

“We are excited that the TSA and so many states are already on board to help bring this to life for travelers across the country using only their iPhone and Apple Watch, and we are already in discussions with many more states as we’re working to offer this nationwide in the future,” she said in the press release.

News of the update specifies that this capability can only be used with TSA in select airports and not by police or other law enforcement. But this could still be possible if Apple plans to continue scaling the Wallet capabilities.

Storing a lot of personal information on your device can generally be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands. And biometric authentication is not foolproof, especially against law enforcement. 

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Multiple court decisions have been made in recent years determining what kind of access law enforcement can get to someone’s private device. In 2014, Los Angeles police officers were granted a warrant in an identity theft case to use someone’s finger to bypass the Touch ID on their phone. Judges in Idaho and California have ruled that using someone’s biometric data to unlock their device violated the Fifth Amendment because it counts as a “testimonial,” or information that can be withheld to protect them from self-incrimination.

Despite this, police departments across the country—including in states accepting this new Apple Wallet feature—have been acquiring and using tools to break into encrypted smartphones, according to a report from Upturn

In this new feature, the data will be encrypted once the identification or license is added to the wallet. The announcement states that the information will only be accessible using biometric authentication, through facial recognition or Touch ID. It also specifies that users do not have to hand over their device but can tap it to the identity reader at the participating airports to release the necessary information. 

Neither Apple nor the issuing state will know when or where the ID is being used, but the state will be notified of you adding the information to your phone through the verification process. 

The press release from Apple even mentions that there are plans to add keys to your home or hotel room to the Wallet. If an iPhone or Apple Watch containing all of your private information is ever lost, the press release just suggests using the Find My app to locate it.