Google has begun beta testing new support for driver’s licenses and state ID cards for the Wallet app on Android – but only if you live in the state of Maryland.
It’s been a while since we’ve last seen the digital ID feature. It was first revealed all the way back in May during the Google IO event as part of revitalizing the long-neglected Wallet app. According to a Google Support page, the feature will be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (better known as the TSA) “at some supporting airports” although it doesn’t say which ones. However, the TSA has a full list of participating airports on its website from across the United States including Maryland’s own Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
For the interested Marylanders, there are some requirements to meet. Your smartphone must be equipped with Android 8.0 or higher. You also need to be a tester in the Google Play Service Public Beta Program. A screen lock must be set and both Bluetooth and the Nearby Devices tool must be enabled.
Google states it’s going to take a few days from when you join the program to get digital IDs. If you still don’t have the beta after a few days have passed, the company asks that you send a report so it can help you out.
Once you download digital ID support, a new “ID Card (beta)” entry will appear in the app. You take a picture of both sides of your ID as well as a short video of yourself. Google Wallet will then send a screenshot of the video to the “ID issuer for verification.” The issuer, in this case, is probably the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), which issues ID cards in the state. Presumably, when digital IDs roll out nationwide, the app will use a state's equivalent of the MVA.
Not mentioned on the support page, the beta comes with three levels of security built in: Easy, Private, and Secure. Looking at the description, Easy displays all of the digital ID's identifying information for TSA checkpoints. Private allows you to control what gets shared and who can see it. Secure encrypts your ID so that you’re the only person who can see it.
The company states “some features may not work as expected” at this stage and recommends people still carry their physical ID cards with them. And as for a nationwide release, a company representative told us that Google doesn't have a date ready as it "just began the pilot in Maryland..."
The state of Maryland is no stranger to digital ID technology. Apple launched digital IDs for its Wallet app back in September 2021 allowing users from several states, including Maryland, to use digital IDs at TSA checkpoints. Maryland Mobile ID, in particular, even has the same security levels of Easy, Private, and Secure to protect iPhone owners. It’s good to see mobile devices gaining this tech for the sake of convenience, but we can’t help but worry if this tech makes phones a bigger target for identity theft. With digital IDs, you have even more personal data on your phone.
If this identity security concerns you, we recommend checking out TechRadar’s recently updated best identity theft protection list for 2022 to beef up your security.
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Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.