So, are we ready for a full transition to digital IDs?

Youth IGF
Youth IGF Informs
Published in
3 min readJan 25, 2023

At the beginning of September 2021, Apple announced that the first eight states in the U.S. were signing up to include driving licences and state IDs in Apple Wallet and Apple Watch. The aim of this move is to provide people with an easier, faster and more secure way to present their driving licence or state ID. Imagine being able to travel without your passport and sailing through security checkpoints and lanes at the airport using just your iPhone. This may seem an unrealistic prospect for some, but it is beginning to look as if we may be able to experience a scenario like this in the near future.

An example of a digital ID. Credit: Photo from the State of Colorado

At this early stage we see both the private and public sector trying to come up with separate digital ID solutions. The European Commission wants to develop an app that would contain the digital version of an ID card. It seems clear that the EU wants to retain control of its citizens’ data, rather than share it with tech giants situated outside the EU. Apple is doing the same.

“It’s all about the market”, says Yuliya Morenets, the founder of the Youth IGF. “Apple is a private company seeking to manage data flows. The company has an opportunity to gain the power to manage the storage of national IDs and has no intention of passing it on to governments”. In addition, by presenting such a service, Apple is likely to attract more customers by offering them their products.

It is also important to consider the need for a dedicated infrastructure for the storage of sensitive personal data, such as national IDs and driving licences, information which may also be complemented by other data in the future. The question is who will be the first to build it. Apparently, Apple is in the driving seat here, since it does not have to go through the complex process that governments undergo. And what if a country does not have funds to invest in such an infrastructure? It seems to open up more possibilities for Apple to offer their technologies right away.

Sergey from Russia stressed one of the positive aspects. He mentioned that the roll-out of a new feature allowing users to add their driving licence and state IDs to Apple Wallet and Apple Watch would make a life a lot easier for them. Yuliya Morenets thinks people should be given the right to choose. What if they simply want to use an iPhone to prove their identity, and not the services that government would offer instead, she asks. And then there is the issue of compatibility as well. If a government provides its own digital ID, will it be supported by Apple devices?

Julie Ward, a former Member of the European Parliament, draws attention to the connectivity problems that might impede the successful implementation and use of digital IDs. She is worried by the fact that the lack of the right equipment or a simple system shutdown could leave people without access to personal data stored on their devices. The digital divide still remains the biggest obstacle for the deployment of e-identity, regardless of whether it is developed by a government or a private company.

“I’m a paper person”, says Julie, adding that people have a tendency to lose their phones.

So, are we ready for a full transition to digital IDs?

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Youth IGF
Youth IGF Informs

Young leaders about policies & governance. Focus on online safety, cybersec skills, online fakes & all the hottest internet issues. Founder Yuliya Morenets