(Image: Apple)Earlier this year, Apple announced it would be rolling out an option that would allow iPhone users to store a digital version of their driver’s licenses on their devices. This week it became clear that Apple is expecting participating states to foot the bill for the costs associated with the service.
Known unofficially as “digital ID,” the option will add virtual versions of users’ licenses, state identification, and other forms of ID to their Apple Wallet. While the main idea is to reduce physical clutter and allow users to always have a copy of their ID on them, the service may also help to reduce fraud; a physical ID card can be stolen, but Apple’s digital ID requires a successful Face ID or passcode entry in order for the card to be displayed. It’s the clear next step to a system that has allowed smartphone users to use their devices in lieu of their debit and credit cards when making purchases on the go.
What wasn’t disclosed in Apple’s initial announcement, however, was that taxpayers would be stuck paying for the means to implement and maintain the digital ID service. According to CNBC, which obtained contracts between Apple and the four first states to use digital ID, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma will use taxpayer dollars to support and even market the service. Among other things, states will need to pay to maintain the systems that issue and service credentials, hire project managers, and market the feature—all on the taxpayers’ dime.
In exchange for this, you’d think states would maintain a decent amount of control over the day-to-day operation of the service. But this just isn’t the case. Despite shouldering the financial burden of the deal, Apple remains in the “driver’s seat,” with the tech giant closely overseeing all marketing efforts and project timelines. Each state’s contract states it’s required to “allocate reasonably sufficient personnel and resources (e.g., staff, project management and funding) to support the launch of the Program” and even designate a specific project manager for responding to Apple inquiries, if Apple requests it. States will also be required to provide customer support for any issues involving the service, not Apple.
While it may come as a surprise that Apple is asking government bodies to market its new feature, it makes sense, in a semi-dystopian sort of way. The more governments “normalize” the use of a product, the more likely other entities are to feel as though they might as well try it. This includes other government bodies, but it also goes for businesses that may need to view customers’ IDs, like hotels or bars.
Digital ID will first be introduced in Arizona and Georgia, but neither state has launched their programs just yet.
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