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Mobile driver’s licenses are coming to New York state starting June 11th

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New York has become the next state to introduce a mobile ID program, giving residents the option to digitize their driver’s license or non-driver ID.

Beginning today, the New York Mobile ID app is available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The app can be used for identity verification at airports. A physical license, permit, or non-driver ID is required to activate a mobile ID; you’ll need to take a photo of the front and back with your phone during the enrollment process.

The news was announced during a media briefing at LaGuardia Airport on Tuesday that included New York’s and Transportation Security Administration federal security director Robert Duffy, among other speakers. Their pitch is that mobile IDs “will revolutionize the way New Yorkers protect their identities and will significantly enhance the way they get through security at airports across the nation.” State officials are also emphasizing that it’s a voluntary option meant for convenience.

NYS DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder announces the New York Mobile ID app at LaGuardia Airport.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

“When you offer your mobile ID to TSA or anyone else who accepts it, you are in full control of sharing that information. They can only see the information they request to see,” Schroeder said. “If you only need to prove your age, you can withhold other information that a verifier doesn’t need to see.”

The app is designed so that your phone remains in your possession at all times — you should never freely hand a device over to law enforcement — and shows a QR code that can be scanned to verify your identity.

Any changes to your license status such as renewals or suspensions are automatically pushed to the mobile version, and the digital ID also mirrors data like whether you’re an organ donor.

For now, acceptance of mobile IDs by businesses (and the police) is completely voluntary — and there’s no deadline in place for compliance — so it’s definitely too soon to start leaving your physical one at home. But bars and other small businesses can start accepting them immediately if they install the state’s verifier app.

The app can be scanned by airports and businesses to verify your identity.
Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The New York Mobile ID app can be used “at nearly 30 participating airports across the country including all terminals at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports,” according to a press release from Governor Kathy Hochul.

Before today, fewer than a dozen states in the United States had rolled out mobile driver’s licenses. New York joins a list that includes Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, and Utah. Android and iOS both offer native support for mobile driver’s licenses in their respective digital wallet apps.

Indeed, the days of repeating the “keys, wallet, phone” mantra when leaving the house may be coming to an end — at least for some of us. In addition to government-issued IDs, smartphones have the capability to store credit cards and even digital car keys.

But there are inherent privacy concerns that surround digital IDs: they can potentially be tracked and leave a more detailed trail of where you’ve been (and for what purpose) than traditional physical IDs. Storing all of that data with a contracted third-party vendor comes with its own set of risks, and privacy advocates have called for safeguards like strong encryption and giving residents tight control over what data is shared where.

In January, the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter asking the DMV to pause any potential pilot of a mobile ID program and calling for more transparency, saying that the department’s efforts have largely been out of public view and warrant greater scrutiny.

“The perceived need for any program should be debated in public forums and include plans for technical and legal safeguards, including comprehensive privacy protections,” the group said. “Digitizing any identification system requires particular scrutiny and immense care, based on the harms we have seen across the country and beyond.”

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