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Apple Lobbies NY for Digital Driver’s Licenses



SHANTEL DESTRA, INTRO: According to a new report from the Times Union, Apple has been lobbying New York State. The tech company wants the state to allow New Yorkers to store government-issued IDs, including driver’s licenses, in digital wallets. Nik Guggenburger is the executive director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. I asked about the implications of a trade-off many of us are familiar with — convenience…in exchange for sharing our private information with large corporations.


DESTRA:

To play devil’s advocate a little bit, don’t we already give our information to companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. It’s really no secret that advertisers push discounts to consumers through information passing. So are digital driver’s licenses really that different when it comes to private entities taking hold of our private information?


NIKOLAS GUGGENBURGER:

First, let's start with a type of information. So there is information that is just by its a by their by its very nature, more sensitive than other information, health and health information is an example to for that your physical address can be an example of that, that might be more critical to keep secret and private, then let's say I don't know what you last shopped on Amazon, the second, it might be entities that you're specifically concerned about. So in the case of the driver's license, or if that route were to be followed, it would privatize the now in air quotes, business of identification. And that is, I think, a huge major problem, it would further strengthen corporate power. And it would create significant additional significant lock-in effects that make it harder for people to switch digital services. And that that will create structures, where you are even where your private information, your personal data is even more exposed to large and powerful digital platforms.


DESTRA:

So on one hand, digital driver's licenses could be really convenient. But as we've spoken about, there are a lot of like privacy concerns. So from your perspective, does the benefit outweigh the privacy risk?


GUGGENBURGER:

The costs very much depend on how you build such a system. And two major aspects of that, that determine these costs are one, what type of security measures do you build into the system? And the other big question is who gets access to that information, for what purpose? Both these questions can be answered in very, very different ways. There are some states that offer their own apps that allow you to store this type of personal information. There are other approaches where private companies offer that service. And the threats or potential or concerns associated vary a lot, depending on whether it is the states that offer that directly, or whether that is a private corporation, and you might have preferences for one over the other. But that is just to say that it is really very much a question of how you design these systems, who operates them? And under what limitations?


DESTRA:

One of the major privacy concerns raised about this is the possibility that hackers could get ahold of private information. As an expert in cyber privacy, what are your thoughts on this specific concern?


GUGGENBURGER:

It is much broader than that. And the real concern is about an abuse of the data or information that is digitally stored. abuse can happen by private entities by corporations that use that or abuse that information in a way that they shouldn't. It can also be abused by government entities in order to further state surveillance. And so I think while this concern that you mentioned is certainly valid, it is just sort of a very narrow version of a much broader concern about cybersecurity, privacy, and protection from surveillance.


DESTRA:

What are some of the extra guardrails or security steps that the New York State DMV could potentially put in place to ensure that New Yorkers have their private information protected with these digital licenses?


GUGGENBURGER:

At a policy level, I think the most important restriction or limitation is a restriction and limitation on the usage of the information. So to clearly spell out what this digitally stored information and data can be used for and what it must not be used for. Now, on top of that, they just need to build a system that can't be hacked.


DESTRA:

Thank you so much for being here today.


GUGGENBURDER:

Thank you so much for having me, Shantel. It was a pleasure talking to you.


Shantel Destra, Columbia Radio News



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