Iowa passes the nation's first digital driver's license law

Iowa’s digital driver’s license will work at traffic stops and Iowan airports. 

Iowa Department of Transportation
This is a proposed sample of the upcoming Iowa digital driver's license.

Iowa transportation officials released a plan last week to offer digital driver’s licenses to Iowans.

According to The Des Moines Register, the free mobile app will be accepted during police traffic stops and at security checkpoints in Iowa’s airports. While the app probably won’t be available until 2016, Iowa would be the first state to offer its people a digital option for their state ID. The state will continue to issue traditional plastic driver’s licenses for those who want them.

The possibility of widespread adoption for digital driver’s licenses has some people excited. Following the release of the iPhone payment system Apple Pay in October, a digital license could be another step toward a wallet-less future.

Others are not yet sold on the idea, especially because of possible privacy violations during traffic stops. In order to verify the digital license, the police officer will need to take the phone and scan the license barcode from hardware located in the police car. Private text messages or e-mails could appear across the top of the phone while the police officer is looking at the license.

Iowa’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is aware of people’s privacy concerns and is investigating ways to assuage fears, according to CNET. One possible option is to lock the rest of the phone while the driver’s license app is open.

In the past three years, more than 30 US states have begun accepting digital proof of insurance at traffic stops. It’s a big change from 2011 when no states allowed it. Insurance companies such as Geico and Esurance now have their own apps to make it simple for drivers to show police officers their proof of insurance.

Identification in the digital world has also appeared in Europe. ID cards in some European countries offer increased security in electronic environments. For example, Estonia’s plastic ID cards work for both in-person and digital transactions. The cards provide proof of identification for Estonia’s e-services, such as logging into bank accounts, providing digital signatures, and even voting via the Internet.

Passports for countries around the world, while still a paper document, have a digital element. Many now come with an electronic chip containing personal data printed in the passport. The UN's International Civil Aviation Organization reports that 100 countries are currently issuing chip-based passports, and most countries have e-passport readers.

As Iowa’s DOT moves forward with its digital driver’s license app, it plans to incorporate an extended testing phase before releasing the app to the state. Depending on the app’s success, other states may follow suit.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Iowa passes the nation's first digital driver's license law
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today