Are unified digital IDs a thing?

I’ve been busy helping a client who needed summer fill-in help, but I’m finally making the time to catch up on my reading. And this article from Government Technology was on my reading list.

When I read the title “Mobile Driver’s Licenses Pave the Way for Unified Digital IDs,” I was intrigued by the last three words. I mean, there are more and more states releasing (non-pilot) mobile driver’s licenses, and the standard is coming along, and work is being done to prepare for federal acceptance.

But what about the “unified” part? How did David Raths address that?

Government uses of digital ID

Well, he listened to Eric Jorgensen, director of Arizona’s Department of Transportation.

“I actually hate the term ‘mDL’ because it doesn’t recognize the power of what we’re doing here….The whole concept is that we’re providing a way to remotely authenticate a person, to provide a trusted digital identity that doesn’t exist today. Once we provide that, we’re opening doors to enhanced government services. Also, the government can play a key role in facilitating commerce, providing a better citizen experience and providing for the security of that citizen — that goes way beyond what a driver’s license is about.”

Although all that Jorgensen is discussing is providing a trusted digital identity that is equivalent to a trusted physical identity. If you have to show your driver’s license when visiting a government office’s physical location, conceivably you can show your digital driver’s license when visiting a government office’s website.

Enterprise uses of digital ID

And there are applications beyond government. Delaware and other states are persuading private businesses to accept mobile driver’s licenses as valid forms of identification. There’s a powerful use case for age-restricted products, of course; since all that an alcohol-selling business needs to know is whether you are over the age of 21, the mobile driver’s license ONLY shows that you are over the age of 21. It doesn’t show your address, your weight, or even your birthdate.

But what about a true UNIFIED digital ID?

However, I semantically question whether this is truly a “unified” ID. This is just digitization of an existing government-endorsed ID. A “unified” ID would be one that would not only let me drive, vote, and buy alcohol, but would also serve as my ID to log into Facebook or buy Bitcoin. (Yes, I realize that use of a government ID to buy Bitcoin violates the space-time continuum in some way.)

And for that to happen, work may need to be done to make mobile IDs compatible with existing authentication/authorization methods such as OAuth and OpenID Connect.

And the whole “but what if I don’t have a digital ID?” question must be addressed.

And the whole “but what if I want to use a self-sovereign ID that is NOT government endorsed?” question must be addressed.

And presumably a myriad of other questions would need to be addressed also.

But for me, I can’t address unified digital IDs today. Just got a message from my summer-challenged client…

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s