Google has started beta testing a new driver’s license and state ID support for the Android Wallet app – but only if you live in Maryland.
It’s been a while since we last saw a digital ID feature. This was first revealed all the way back May during the Google IO event as part of revitalizing the long-neglected Wallet app. According Google’s help page (opens in a new tab), the feature will be accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (better known as TSA) “at certain serving airports”, although it doesn’t say which ones. However, TSA does full list of participating airports (opens in a new tab) on its website from all over the United States, including Baltimore/Washington International Airport in Maryland.
There are certain requirements for interested Maryland residents. Your smartphone must be equipped with Android 8.0 or later. You must also be a tester in Google Play public beta program (opens in a new tab). Set up a screen lock and turn on both Bluetooth and Nearby Devices.
Google says it will take a few days from the time you join the program to get digital IDs. If after a few days you still don’t have the beta, the company will ask you to submit a report so they can help you
Once digital ID support is downloaded, a new “ID card (beta)” entry will appear in the app. You take a picture of both sides of your ID card and record your short video. 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 are rolled out nationwide, the app will use the state’s MVA equivalent.
Not mentioned on the support page, beta is included three safeguards (opens in a new tab): Easy, private and secure. Looking at the description, Easy displays all the digital ID identifying information for TSA checkpoints. Private allows you to control what is shared and who can see it. Secure encrypts your ID so you’re the only one who can see it.
The company says that “some features may not work as expected” at this stage and recommends that people continue to carry their physical ID cards with them. And as for the nationwide release, a company representative told us that Google doesn’t have a set date because it “just started a pilot in Maryland…”
Maryland is no stranger to digital identification technology. Apple launched digital IDs (opens in a new tab) for its Wallet app in September 2021, allowing users in several states, including Maryland, to use digital IDs at TSA checkpoints. Maryland Mobile ID (opens in a new tab)in particular, it even has the same security levels: Easy, Private and Secure to protect iPhone owners. It’s good that mobile devices get this technology for convenience, but we can’t help but worry if this technology makes phones a bigger target for identity theft. With digital IDs, you have even more personal data on your phone.
If identity security concerns you, we recommend checking out the recently updated TechRadar page best identity theft protection list for 2022 to strengthen your security.