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Iowa DOT Delays Launch of Digital ID for Security Improvements

The Iowa Department of Transportation has delayed the launch of digital ID to make security improvements to its mobile ID app. The agency will be bringing the app in line with national and international standards, officials say.

(TNS) — Iowans will have to wait longer for the option of keeping their state-issued ID on their smartphones and not just their wallets.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has delayed the public launch of its digital driver's license, or "mobile ID," as it seeks to develop and test a newer version of the application to align with new national and international best practices and standards.

"After we began development, national and international best practices" for mobile identity were solidified, "and we have been building those into Iowa's app as we are developing," Andrea Henry, director of strategic communications for the Iowa DOT, responded in an email.

The new guidelines prompted additional development and testing of the mobile ID app using newer software to add another layer of security, said Toni Smith, emerging technology program manager with the Iowa DOT.

"We want to provide the highest level of security for citizens and relying parties," Smith said.

That includes the incorporation of a QR code for retail establishments and other places to scan to verify a person's age, identity or address. The QR code includes an encryption key, and once scanned initiates an encrypted Bluetooth connection.

All personal information is stored within the DOT's system and on the user's device, which isn't shared "until you release that information" through the app, Smith said.

Previously, DOT officials had hoped to make the Iowa mobile ID available for download via Apple and Android smartphone apps sometime in 2022.

Smith said the DOT has yet to set a firm date for the public rollout of the mobile ID app.

"We will conduct a pilot with the new software version that will include enrolling in the application and then using features in the app to test functionality and user experience," Smith said. "The pilot will also include using the Iowa Mobile ID app with a verification tool to attain feedback on functionality and user experience of that transaction."

While new security features have been added, the enrollment process has not changed, Smith said.

To enable the mobile identification, a smartphone user will download and open the app, register their phone number, scan the front and back of his or her physical driver's license and take a "live selfie," or self-photo, that Iowa DOT officials can check against the image and information on file to verify the user. Once confirmed, the mobile ID will be enrolled.

Users then create a six-digit PIN to unlock the app. They can also use biometric unlocking, like fingerprint or facial recognition, according to the Iowa DOT.

The Iowa mobile ID app will be optional and free to users, who still will be expected to carry hard-copy licenses even if their mobile device is equipped with the digitized version of their ID.

"It is a companion to your physical ID; it does not replace it," Smith said. "Users should still carry their physical ID."

The new digital driver's license also will meet the federal REAL ID standard that will be required for boarding an airplane or entering a federal building beginning May 7, 2025.

"The Iowa Mobile ID is an extension of a citizen's driver's license or ID," Smith said. "If the citizen has REAL ID for the physical ID, they will have REAL ID on their Mobile ID."

She said the DOT is working to make sure the digital ID can be accepted by Transportation Security Administration ID readers at airports.

While Iowans would still carry their physical ID, Smith said the digital version provides a convenient, secure and contactless way to verify one's identity.

"Everything is on your phone, now your ID is too," Smith said, noting people typically have their phone in their hand, and it's often "handier to get to than your wallet."

In addition to encryption features to help protect against fraud, users can also choose the information they want to share, Smith said. For example, users can verify their age without having to relay sensitive data like their birth date or address.

"It's a great opportunity to share only the information you need for that transaction," she said. "It offers convenience in a secure and private manner."

©2023 The Gazette, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.