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Florida Moves Forward With Digital Driver's Licenses and IDs

Digital licenses and IDs are currently being tested before being rolled out to the public later this year. Once released, users will be able to share their app-based ID with law enforcement and participating retailers.

digital ID card
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Digital driver's licenses and identification cards could soon be available for Florida residents later this year after a recently passed bill authorized the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) to develop a uniform system for issuing digital licenses and IDs.

According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chip LaMarca, R-93, the bill grew from a discussion about annual policy within the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Based on that,” LaMarca said, “we sat down with the department to discuss how this would impact Florida residents and how it will move the state into an area of higher tech.”

Once the bill was passed, the FLHSMV took over the project, LaMarca explained.

“We are currently in the pilot phase of Florida Smart ID, which is an important step prior to public launch,” an FLHSMV spokesperson said via email. “Once available to the public, users will be able to present their Florida Smart ID to law enforcement for identity verification and participating retailers for age verification.”

According to the agency’s website, residents will be able to use a Florida Smart ID Verifier app to share their Florida Smart ID through a scannable QR or barcode. Once a user’s barcode is scanned, their information will be read and shared with the appropriate individual. Right now, a limited group of participants is testing out this process.

After the testing phase is complete, the FLHSMV will update the app to reflect the participants’ recommendations and work alongside Thales — a third-party, identity management vendor — to reinforce the app’s electronic credentialing system, according to the agency.

“The way it works is that we are responsible for the backbone of the app’s credentialing services,” said Steven Purdy, the head of sales and marketing for Thales' identity and verification business branch. “We will also oversee authentication updates along with other verification requirements.”

Privacy, Purdy said, is another area being focused on regarding the app.

“I would say that the privacy angle is an important angle because we live our lives through our Androids and iPhones,” he said.

“The argument is people turn on permissions to let the nearest Starbucks know where they are, and that appears to be OK with most people because it is convenient,” Purdy said. “Issuing something like a digital license, however, requires a certain level of trust.”

To gain that trust, he explained, there has been a lot of guidance on what principles to implement to protect someone’s identity.

“For stronger privacy, Florida Smart ID users control what information is displayed from the app depending on the context,” an FLHSMV spokesperson said. “For example, to purchase alcohol, it only needs to show that the individual is 21+ and the Florida Smart ID will just display that information — not the individual’s name, date of birth or address.”

What's more, the smart device does not need to leave the owner’s hand when being verified by a retailer or law enforcement, making Florida Smart ID a contact-free and convenient way to display proof of identity or age.

As for other security measures, the FLHSMV’s website says that if a user’s phone is lost or stolen, their Florida Smart ID will not be accessible without their PIN or fingerprint. The Smart ID can also be remotely deactivated and wiped from a user's smart device by notifying FLHSMV.

“I think this is a good next step,” Rep. LaMarca said. “The concept was very well received and we look forward to seeing what comes next.”
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.
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