Apple has been lobbying New York officials for digital driver’s licenses

Apple lobbyists met with New York state officials last year as part of a controversial statewide push for digital driver licenses, state records show.

The tech giant wants customers to store versions of government ID documents, including their state driver’s licenses, in digital wallets that can then be accessed via iPhones, Apple Watches and other Apple devices.

The company calls the feature convenient and secure – but privacy activists have objected to connecting personal IDs to phones and raised questions about Apple’s state contracts.

As part of Apple’s push, an Albany-based lobbying firm called Roffe Group met twice in 2021 with New York City Department of Motor Vehicles Deputy Commissioner Greg Kline, according to recently released state records.

During a meeting earlier this year, Apple lobbyists discussed “mobile driver licenses[s]’ with Kline, while another meeting in the second half of 2021 provided an “update on Apple’s digital ID card announcement,” according to records released by the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

New York DMV Deputy Commissioner Greg Kline met with Apple lobbyists.
New York DMV Deputy Commissioner Greg Kline met with Apple lobbyists.
Facebook/New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

Apple and the DMV did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

State records don’t provide details of the meetings, but it appears all efforts to immediately include New York in Apple’s ID program have been unsuccessful.

In September, Apple announced that Arizona and Georgia would become the first states to participate in the digital driver license program, followed by Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah.

The company also said the Transportation Security Administration plans to accept IDs stored on iPhones at “selected airport security checkpoints” at “participating airports,” without giving details.

“Adding driver’s licenses and state IDs to Apple Wallet is an important step in our vision to replace the physical wallet with a secure and easy-to-use mobile wallet,” said Apple Vice President Jennifer Bailey at the time.

However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights and privacy group, has raised concerns about the privacy implications of phone-bound IDs.

“Incorrectly constructed [digital IDs] could be a big step towards national identification, where every time we walk through a door or buy coffee, a record of the event is collected and aggregated,” the group said last year, adding that connecting digital devices with real IDs poses risks to “obstructing the ability to engage in constitutionally protected anonymous speech and facilitating the privacy-destroying ongoing tracking of our activities and associations.”

TSA accepts digital IDs at some airports.
TSA accepts digital IDs at some airports.

Meanwhile, a November CNBC report revealed that several states that have signed ID contracts with Apple are required to pay for many aspects of the program themselves and have agreed to provide Apple with “all publicly available communications” related to the program to be checked and approved.

“Apple’s interest is clear — selling more iPhones,” Philip Phan, a professor at Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, told the outlet. “The interest of the state is to serve its citizens, but I’m not sure why they think partnering with a specific tech company that owns a closed ecosystem is the best way to do that. That the state would spend tax money on a product that only serves half of its citizens is questionable.”

A meeting between Apple lobbyists and Kline was first reported by the Albany Times-Union.

Records show Apple paid the Roffe Group a total of $108,000 in 2021 for its work, which included lobbying efforts around vaccine passports and distribution. Apple has been lobbying New York officials for digital driver’s licenses


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