Iowa's plan to put your driver's license on your phone | WBEZ
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A plan to put your driver's license on your phone

We're doing more and more things with our smartphones, so why not use them to store our driver's license? But when you think about it, you may not be comfortable handing your phone over to a police officer.

Motorists in Iowa may be among the first in the nation to be able to whip out their smartphones to access their licenses at traffic stops. The Iowa Department of Transportation is developing a smartphone app that would allow drivers to access a digitally encoded license that would take the place of the conventional plastic ID card.

"It's on your cellphone so you can carry it around with you," Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino says.

At a recent statehouse briefing on the IDs, Trombino demonstrates that first you access an app on the Internet. Next, with a PIN you fill in the app with information from your physical driver's license. Then your new virtual license downloads into your phone for you to present wherever you need an ID.

But some Iowans who might be most affected by the change have their doubts.

"From a law enforcement perspective I really don't see any advantages," says Sgt. Scott Bright with the Iowa State Patrol. "The first thing I thought about is if we're making a traffic stop, is that violator looking for their cellphone before we stop the car."

Bright also doubts that officers could scan the information from a digital license without carrying the cellphone back to the squad car — and that raises obvious privacy concerns.

Computer security experts say the digital license could be more secure than a plastic license you might lose or leave lying around. But that doesn't mean there's any real need for this yet.

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