(Mark Pellin, Headline USA) In what has been condemned as a precursor to a dystopian future that includes government regimes digitally tracking and controlling the masses, California officials are actively pushing a new digital ID scheme that has triggered alarms for privacy advocates.
Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced that the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles is aggressively expanding its pilot program for a digital wallet smartphone app. The latest offering includes a digital driver’s license, dubbed a “mDL,” or mobile driver’s license, and an age-verification ID.
While DMV bureaucrats assured program enrollees that their “usage is not tracked, and no data leaves your device without your consent,” critics noted an important caveat.
Popular tech site Reclaim The Net warned that “Despite being pitched as a technological advancement, the pilot program, which is now open to 1.5 million participants, has its drawbacks. To obtain this digital ID, users must download the ‘CA DMV Wallet’ app.”
Because the new options don’t interface with “decentralized wallet systems,” users “are forced to trust their sensitive information to a singular, state-run app,” the tech outlet reported.
“California rolls out face-scanning digital ID to replace Driver’s Licenses. What could go wrong?” cracked one X commentator.
And while the DMV has assured “that the app ‘does not permanently store your personal data,” Reclaim The Net noted that the government agency “still retains your phone number and an ‘encrypted photo of your DL/ID card.’”
California’s move into biometric mDLs followed in the footsteps of states like Arizona, Louisiana and Colorado, and is being used as a model for states like Iowa and Michigan, according to Biometric Update.
The trend poses a troubling trajectory for privacy advocates concerned about government intrusion and overreach, despite assurances and claims of best intentions.
“Better protections on information and its uses can only go so far,” Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an essay about the military’s expansion of biometrics and its creep into civilian life.
“In many instances, the only way to ensure that people are not made vulnerable by the misuse of private information is to limit, wherever possible, how much of it is collected in the first place.”