Travel | March 26, 2022 7:00 am

The Good and Bad News About Apple’s New TSA-Approved Digital ID

Arizonans are now able to add their driver's license or state ID to the Wallet app and use it to get through select TSA security checkpoints

People in line at TSA
Sorry to all you Android users.

For years, the airline industry has been prioritizing digital self-service solutions in the name of efficiency. From mobile check-in capabilities and automated passport control kiosks to passport applications, there are very few air travel-related tasks that can’t be completed digitally. And now you won’t even have to take your license out of your wallet, as Apple’s TSA-approved digital ID is now officially live.

On Wednesday, the tech giant announced that Arizona had become the first state to offer driver’s license and state IDs in the Wallet app, meaning Arizonans can now use their iPhones, or Apple Watches, to present their IDs at select TSA security checkpoints in Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

“We’re thrilled to bring the first driver’s license and state ID in Wallet to Arizona today, and provide Arizonans with an easy, secure, and private way to present their ID when traveling, through just a tap of their iPhone or Apple Watch,” said Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s vice president of Apple Pay and Apple Wallet. “We look forward to working with many more states and the TSA to bring IDs in Wallet to users across the US.”

According to a release from the Secure Technology Alliance from December, “Mobile driver’s licenses are gaining traction in at least 30 U.S. states. The progress exemplifies that the transition from physical driver’s licenses is well underway, and the future of identification documents is digital.” Surveys indicate that travel is the use case that has people most interested in mobile driver’s licenses, and Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio and Puerto Rico have all already announced their plans to follow suit with Apple integrations.

“TSA says standards-based digital IDs such as state-issued [mobile driver’s licenses] will help streamline and secure the identity verification process. Instead of TSA staff examining a physical ID card, manually comparing a traveler’s ID photo to their face and verifying flight information, a machine will automate the process,” the Secure Technology Alliance release continues. “Travelers will simply tap an NFC reader or use a QR scanner to initiate the data exchange. A TSA staff member will be present to oversee and validate the verification process.”

It’s an exciting advancement for jet-setters to be sure. It requires a mere tap of an iPhone near the identity reader, followed by a quick Touch ID or Face ID scan to confirm that you’re comfortable sharing your identity information with the TSA, and you’re through. And as far as privacy goes, your personal information isn’t shared with Apple during the setup process nor are you able to take a screenshot of the digital ID.

Of course there are a few caveats. To start, in order to add a digital ID, users must be in possession of an iPhone 8 or newer (iOS 15.4 or later) or an Apple Watch Series 4 or newer (WatchOS 8.4 or later), and obviously Android users are shit out of luck entirely. Secondly, a physical ID may still be required by the TSA officer to complete verification. Further, according to an investigation by CNBC from November, Apple is asking individual states to assume some of the cost (read: taxpayers) and provide customer support ahead of the launch of the digital IDs. Not least of all, there’s also an inherent risk that comes with keeping all of your documents on your phone: If your phone dies or gets lost along the way, you too are now shit out of luck.

That said, all signs seem to point to a future in which mobile IDs are the preferred method of identification. TSA is always implementing new technology for the sake of enhancing customer service and streamlining security procedures, and it seems likely that travelers who already use PreCheck and Clear would gravitate toward this, too.