Iowa Tries Digital Drivers License App
Licensed drivers in Iowa would have a choice: a traditional card license, or the mobile app. The virtual license would contain the same personal information, including the mysterious bar code, as the plastic card version. During a traffic stop, a police officer would scan the bar code to verify the driver's information with the Department of Transportation.
This could be a problem given the amount of information contained on a typical cell phone. Privacy concerns arise for those Iowa motorists opting to use the digital license. For example, an officer might be privy to incoming text or email messages; an officer might glimpse a photo or the driver's call log, or other information to which the officer would not ordinarily have access.
Aside from the information stored on the driver's mobile device -a fully functional computer these days- questions also arise concerning what information the app retrieves, how such information is being secured or stored, and what information is being exchanged during the interface transaction.
Anticipating these basic privacy concerns, the Iowa DOT described a two-step authentication process, possibly including biometric user verification, and a security feature that would block a police officer from accessing any other part of the mobile device while the app was in use. For their part, law enforcement leaders in Iowa have reacted cautiously to the announcement, implying the digital license may cause more problems for police departments than it solves.
All of this brings to mind the recent SCOTUS decision in Riley v California, where the High Court ruled that in order for police to access the information on a motorists' cell phone, a warrant is required. The utility of this app depends on how it will be used by law enforcement and whether motorists are better served with one less plastic card to carry on one's person.