Owners of Apple’s iPhone are about to have a much easier time getting through airport security. Apple is slated to release its digital wallet feature next year, and the TSA is getting ahead of the launch by preparing a phased rollout of the feature at select airports.
First announced at WWDC in June, Apple’s plan of allowing iPhone and Apple Watch users to store their driver’s licence and state ID in the Wallet app was originally set to arrive this year before being pushed back to 2022. The tech giant has since been trying to convince states to accept these digital forms of identification, and it revealed that Arizona and Georgia would be the first to introduce digital IDs before they arrive in Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah.
Apple said earlier this year that the TSA was working to enable airport security checks so it could be among the first places to use digital IDs. Now the Secure Technology Alliance announced in a post that the transportation administration will accept Mobile Driver’s Licenses (mDL) at two airports next February before adding two additional states in March as part of a pilot program.
The goal will be to streamline the ID verification process so travellers can quickly file through security lines. With Apple Wallet, tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch on a QR scanner will check both your boarding pass and ID, removing the need for you to take out your purse or wallet, show the card to a TSA agent, and drop your mask so they can see your face.
“Surveys show that travel is the number one use case people are interested in for mDL. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is in agreement and it fully supports the mDL movement for travel authentication,” wrote the Secure Technology Alliance.
“TSA is preparing to begin its phased rollout, with mDL Apple Wallet integration being its first step, which will allow select security checkpoints in participating airports to be the first locations people can use their mDL in the Wallet app.”
The announcement doesn’t specify which airports will participate in the pilot program, but based on what Apple has said, they could be somewhere in Arizona and Georgia.
Apple believes using digital IDs will be a faster, more secure way of verifying your identity. However, some users have raised privacy concerns about keeping their most sensitive information housed in a device that could end up in the wrong hands. Security experts who spoke with NPR are worried digital IDs will make us more reliant on tech companies than before and fear the feature could be used for tracking and monetisation.
For its part, Apple promises that identity data is encrypted when transferred to a scanner, and documents obtained by CNBC last year reveal how the company has “sole discretion” on how the program will operate. It has so much control that the funding to implement these new systems will come from taxpayers, not Cupertino.
Android users who are wondering when they can slide through the TSA line are being left out in the cold. In late 2019, Qualcomm and Google announced that the latest Snapdragon phone chips at the time would support Android Identity Credential APIs, but Google has since kept quiet about using the feature in any of its apps.
Beyond scanning your phone or watch at a TSA checkout line, digital IDs can be used when verifying your age at a liquor store, showing your vaccination status at an event, or handing in your ID to a police officer after you’ve been pulled over — another instance that has people worried about their privacy.