National ID For Public Purpose

Cite as: 7 Geo. L. Tech. Rev. 272 (2023)

Starting on March 23, 2022, residents of Arizona could add a digital copy of their driver’s license or state identification (“ID”) to their Apple Wallet, allowing them to use their iPhones or Apple Watches to present valid government identification at airport security checkpoints.1 The state reported that over 11,000 people had requested digital copies of their Arizona IDs in the first 24 hours alone.2 Apple is expecting to roll out similar driver’s license projects in eleven states and Puerto Rico,3 and Google is likely not far behind in supporting digital state IDs on Android smartphones.4 With 85 percent of Americans owning a smartphone as of February 2021,5 one can expect a similarly high adoption of mobile driver’s licenses and digital state IDs in the next few years.

Though on the surface the ability to store and present official state IDs on one’s smartphone seems to be just another added convenience in an increasingly digital world, this transition raises an important question about whether Americans are finally ready to embrace a national ID system. While digital state ID is certainly not the same thing as a national ID managed by the federal government, new capabilities enabled by the digital format (e.g., QR codes which reveal only pertinent information, like whether the owner is of legal drinking age6) and recent developments in the past two decades point to an American public that may be more open to a national ID regime.

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Nathaniel Kim

J.D. Class of 2024, Georgetown University Law Center.