Apple Imposing Strict Terms on U.S. States for Digital IDs in Wallet App

Apple's agreement with U.S. states looking to add digital ID cards such as driver's licenses to the Wallet app includes strict terms and charges footed to the taxpayer, according to fintech consultant Jason Mikula and CNBC.

apple wallet drivers license feature
The ability to add a driver's license or ID to the Wallet app is a new feature in iOS 15. Customers will be able to tap the plus icon at the top of the Wallet app to add their ID, and then simply tap their iPhone or Apple Watch on an identity reader at a TSA checkpoint, without taking out their physical card.

Confidential documents seen by Mikula and CNBC purportedly reveal that Apple is imposing stringent terms and conditions on U.S. states looking to implement the new feature. The costs of meeting these requirements, such as hiring staff, project management, marketing, and funding, will be charged to the taxpayer with no financial support from Apple.

The company requires states to independently maintain the systems used to issue and service credentials, hire project managers to respond to Apple's inquiries, verify IDs, perform quality testing to ensure that digital IDs meet Apple's requirements, "prominently" market the feature, "proactively" offer digital IDs whenever a citizen gets a new or replacement card, and encourage state and federal government agencies to widely adopt digital IDs.

Apple has "sole discretion" for a number of the program's key aspects, including what devices will be compatible with digital IDs, how states report on the performance of the feature, and its launch date. Apple is also insisting upon the ability to review and approve all state marketing for the feature.

These terms were apparently included in a seven-page memorandum of agreement that was signed by Georgia, Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. According to CNBC, the agreement "mostly portrays Apple as having a high degree of control over the government agencies responsible for issuing identification cards."

Georgia and Arizona are set to be the first states to offer citizens the opportunity to add their driver's license to the Wallet app, but have yet to launch the program. CNBC noted that while it reviewed the contracts for these states, it has not seen the exact agreements for Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, and Utah, the four other states that have signed up for Apple's digital ID program.

Related Roundup: iPadOS 15
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Top Rated Comments

Jeepdon Avatar
12 months ago
This will perhaps be an unpopular perspective, but If you actually read the text carefully, and then propose to yourself what the opposite would be, you wouldn’t want the opposite. This isn’t Apple “setting a standard” (see below; Apple is using an ISO standard, not their own), and this isn’t Apple taking control over state infrastructure (which I imagine nobody would want).

Apple is, as someone pointed out above, making the wallet. They’re simply informing states of the work that goes into producing the actual ID that goes into the wallet, and making it clear Apple won’t help them in doing so. States are free to use the same digital ID on non-Apple devices (again, it’s an ISO standard), and they should do so only if they feel it benefits them and their taxpayers. If they don’t… fine.

A specific point:


The costs of meeting these requirements, such as hiring staff, project management, marketing, and funding, will be charged to the taxpayer with no financial support from Apple.
This is actually a good thing. Ever seen the TV shows where you get a “free $10000 renovation” and it‘s done slipshod? Having the states own the finances means the states have control over the implementation. They can implement it in a way that facilitates cross-platform compatibility, for example. Ultimately, this doesn’t “benefit Apple,” in that Apple sees no incremental revenue for this feature; it “benefits taxpayers,” who’ll need to foot the bill. If a given state’s taxpayers don’t want the bill or the benefit, cool, their state doesn’t need to do it.

This won’t stay an iOS-only feature; there’s zero chance any government who stands up this infrastructure won’t deploy it as widely as possible. Android may not offer something similar today, but what Apple’s doing is based on a set of open standards—Google can add this into Android anytime they want.


Apple has "sole discretion" for a number of the program's key aspects, including what devices will be compatible with digital IDs
The actual text doesn’t preclude states from offering this to non-Apple devices; it says that Apple will determine which Apple devices Apple supports digital IDs on.


The company requires states to independently maintain the systems used to issue and service credentials,
Again, you’d want this. You don’t want someone else doing it.


hire project managers to respond to Apple's inquiries, verify IDs, perform quality testing to ensure that digital IDs meet Apple's requirements,
Again… I’d think this is how you’d want it. “Apple‘s requirements” being, in this case, the standards that Apple has adopted and is using. You surely wouldn’t want Apple verifying IDs Or doing QA on the systems.


"prominently" market the feature,
Yeah, I mean, maybe this is a bit much, but I can’t imagine states spending the money and not marketing it. Nevada DMV launched a mobile phone reservation service (which works quite well) and they’ve probably spent more marketing it than they did developing it, to get people to use it.


proactively" offer digital IDs whenever a citizen gets a new or replacement card, and encourage state and federal government agencies to widely adopt digital IDs.
I kind of assume you’d want this if you were going to invest in a digital ID program. Maybe instead of seeing this as “Apple being restrictive,” you can choose to see it as, “Apple saying, ‘hey, only do this if you’re going to be serious about it, otherwise don’t bother.’”

And from above…


Poland has it own apps with almost every document, working well on every platform.
Poland is a single country; the 50 US states are much like individual countries in this regard. You cannot view the US as a “country” in many aspects—the Federal government, in some regards (including IDs) acts more as an EU. For example, the Federal government has guidelines on IDs like driver’s licenses, which states can choose to follow or not. For example, in Nevada it is entirely possible to get a Federally approved “Real ID” as well as a non-Real ID. Coordinating ID activities across 50 states is a huge lift.

Also from above…


It should be the government (representing the general public) that imposes standards.
They did, in the US. It’s called “Real ID.” And it still hasn’t been fully adopted. The Federal government is abysmal at coming up with standards, let alone technological ones. Apple is building these off digital ID standards that Apple itself does not own (although it participates in the working groups):



* Apple’s mobile ID implementation supports the ISO 18013-5 mDL (mobile driver’s license) standard which Apple has played an active role in the development of, and which sets clear guidelines for the industry around protecting consumers’ privacy when presenting an ID or driver’s license through a mobile device.

”ISO” is the International Standards Organization; Apple is not creating the standard, here.

And finally..


I think what this means is that the US federal and state governments need to come up with a digital wallet standard.
Having worked on a number of Federal technology projects, I can pretty much assure you this is the very last thing you want. But again, the standard here is not Apple’s. It’s an open spec from ISO. Google has participated in that same standard, just as Apple has.

You might consider the perspective of, “Hey, Apple will make this possible for you, but if you and your taxpayers want it, you’re going to have to pay for it. If you’re going to use our trademarks in your marketing, we want to review that. If you’re going to do this, you might as well promise to market it. Apple’s going to invest something in this [otherwise we wouldn’t need to be sending you inquiries to help get it working] but we want you to own this.”

Legal terminology can sometimes make things seem more evil than they actually are. That’s because legalese isn’t pure English; it’s a set of phrases that have been honed over time to help ensure everyone understands what they’re agreeing to. So just maybe consider that what Apple’s set up is perhaps mostly in the taxpayers’ best interests. They’re using an open standard, they’re forcing states to own the infrastructure and ID data, and they’re not letting states dash this off quickly or without careful planning. I’m surprised anyone would want something different.
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chrono1081 Avatar
12 months ago
Anyone who has worked in state government knows this is a good thing. I'm surprised at all the complaints. As another user stated, the states need to be responsible for managing their own data and it should be strict so not anyone can just up and put in IDs.

The article is annoying with the whole tired "the tax payers foot the bill hur-durr" nonsense. The money will come out of a predetermined budget, your taxes aren't going up just because this gets implemented, and with the size of state budgets this is going to be less than a drop in the bucket cost wise.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
msackey Avatar
12 months ago
Ok, I don't know the full details of this program, but from just reading the article this is not good. This is like turning upside down where a private company is imposing restrictions. It should be the government (representing the general public) that imposes standards.

I think what this means is that the US federal and state governments need to come up with a digital wallet standard.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fwmireault Avatar
12 months ago
It’s way more in apple’s benefit than the states to expand IDs to the Wallet app. I’m surprised Apple doesn’t offer a bigger logistical and financial support in the deployment of this feature as I think the adoption rate will be very low.

I would love this to be coming to Canada, but not holding my breath
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JonaM Avatar
12 months ago
I'm confused as to why Apple would be expected to foot the bill for any entity ( state or otherwise) to utilise functionality in an Apple product. The fact Apple have strict guidelines sounds eminently sensible otherwise no-one would accept or trust the digital IDs.
And the oversight on marketing sounds like a sensible idea to avoid anyone advertising in a way that would damage the digital ID concept for all states.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mnsportsgeek Avatar
12 months ago
Sounds like this isn't going to be widely adopted then.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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