People in a waiting room at a Chicago DMV
Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has endorsed a bill that would allow Illinoisans to store a digital version of their IDs on their mobile device. Chicago Sun-Times
People in a waiting room at a Chicago DMV
Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has endorsed a bill that would allow Illinoisans to store a digital version of their IDs on their mobile device. Chicago Sun-Times

Around a dozen states, including Missouri and Iowa, have some form of digital ID option for residents, but this would be a first for Illinois.

Here are some of the key things to know about what’s included in the proposal.

  • The digital ID would be a companion to — not a replacement for — physical identification.

  • Anyone who is eligible for a physical ID would be able to get a digital ID.

  • It could be used as proof of identity and/or age.

  • It could be used to purchase alcohol, cannabis or to rent a car.

  • The digital ID could reduce wait times at the DMV because changes could be made to licenses remotely.

Potential benefits and drawbacks

Supporters of the idea say digital IDs would put Illinois on the technological forefront.

“This is the future of licensing, the future of proof of identity and the future of how we deliver government services,” says State Rep. Kam Buckner, a co-sponsor of the bill.

He argues that digital IDs are safer than traditional physical IDs. That’s backed up by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, which points out that the technology could hide personal information. For example, a digital ID could be programmed to only show a person’s name and age.

But what happens during a traffic stop?

The bill states that showing a digital ID does not serve as consent to be searched, but the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about how that would be implemented.

Northwestern privacy law professor Matthew Kugler says it’s a fair point: “I might be concerned to hand my unlocked phone over to a police officer, even if I was pretty sure nothing in there could be used to prosecute me.”

Rep. Buckner says it’s possible the state could create a code on the ID that an officer could scan next to a car during a traffic stop. In that scenario, an officer would not need to take an unlocked phone back to a squad car.

What’s still up in the air

At this point, It’s not clear where the Illinois digital ID would be stored on mobile devices.

Apple Wallet would provide encryption and be a familiar format, as many people use it to store boarding passes and credit cards, Kugler says.

He adds that if you’re worried about the government being able to track you if you use a digital ID, it could come down to how much you trust Apple Wallet.

If Illinois rolls out a new, state-specific app, all the usual questions would need to be asked, Kugler says, including who gets access to the data stored in the app.

The bill still needs to make its way through the General Assembly. If it passes, digital IDs could be available as early as next year.

GUESTS: State Rep. Kam Buckner, 26th District

Matthew Kugler, associate professor of law, Northwestern University

People in a waiting room at a Chicago DMV
Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has endorsed a bill that would allow Illinoisans to store a digital version of their IDs on their mobile device. Chicago Sun-Times
People in a waiting room at a Chicago DMV
Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias has endorsed a bill that would allow Illinoisans to store a digital version of their IDs on their mobile device. Chicago Sun-Times

Around a dozen states, including Missouri and Iowa, have some form of digital ID option for residents, but this would be a first for Illinois.

Here are some of the key things to know about what’s included in the proposal.

  • The digital ID would be a companion to — not a replacement for — physical identification.

  • Anyone who is eligible for a physical ID would be able to get a digital ID.

  • It could be used as proof of identity and/or age.

  • It could be used to purchase alcohol, cannabis or to rent a car.

  • The digital ID could reduce wait times at the DMV because changes could be made to licenses remotely.

Potential benefits and drawbacks

Supporters of the idea say digital IDs would put Illinois on the technological forefront.

“This is the future of licensing, the future of proof of identity and the future of how we deliver government services,” says State Rep. Kam Buckner, a co-sponsor of the bill.

He argues that digital IDs are safer than traditional physical IDs. That’s backed up by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, which points out that the technology could hide personal information. For example, a digital ID could be programmed to only show a person’s name and age.

But what happens during a traffic stop?

The bill states that showing a digital ID does not serve as consent to be searched, but the American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about how that would be implemented.

Northwestern privacy law professor Matthew Kugler says it’s a fair point: “I might be concerned to hand my unlocked phone over to a police officer, even if I was pretty sure nothing in there could be used to prosecute me.”

Rep. Buckner says it’s possible the state could create a code on the ID that an officer could scan next to a car during a traffic stop. In that scenario, an officer would not need to take an unlocked phone back to a squad car.

What’s still up in the air

At this point, It’s not clear where the Illinois digital ID would be stored on mobile devices.

Apple Wallet would provide encryption and be a familiar format, as many people use it to store boarding passes and credit cards, Kugler says.

He adds that if you’re worried about the government being able to track you if you use a digital ID, it could come down to how much you trust Apple Wallet.

If Illinois rolls out a new, state-specific app, all the usual questions would need to be asked, Kugler says, including who gets access to the data stored in the app.

The bill still needs to make its way through the General Assembly. If it passes, digital IDs could be available as early as next year.

GUESTS: State Rep. Kam Buckner, 26th District

Matthew Kugler, associate professor of law, Northwestern University