UK makes steps towards digital driving licences

Digitalising driving licences is the latest move in taking credentials off plastic and putting them onto the digital world of smartphones.

The UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is developing a digital version of the driving licence for use alongside the existing plastic version, a move that is expected to eventually lead to the digitisation of vehicle licensing enabling drivers to keep their credentials within their smartphones as part of their overall “digital identity”.

For such a scheme to work, it has to be secure and have robust anti-counterfeiting measures that prevent unlicensed drivers from being able to use a vehicle. Although this vision is still a long way from fruition, the plan to launch a concurrent digital version is a step in the right direction.

With technology such as the Apple Wallet apps and other similar software for Android already having the security features to enable secure digital transactions to take place, the smartphone is no longer seen as being something to avoid using for anything requiring robust security.

The technology is well on the way to being capable of performing secure transactions, access control, digital identity and could soon be the all-in-one device for use as a railcard, access card for work, mobile bank and biometrically secured personal data bank…. so why not for other secure credentials such as a driving licence?

According to digital online security expert, Paco Garcia, the Chief Technoogy Officer of Yoti, the use of biometrics goes a long way to achieving this but ensuring control and ownership of an individual’s identity data is a crucial element of this.

A lot has been speculated about biometrics and the potential for its misuse to compromise a person’s identity but the conversion of biometric “features” such as fingerprints or facial characteristics into anonymised and encrypted character strings provides the security in a way that makes it impossible to reverse the algorithm and produce an identity profile from the biometric data.

According to Garcia, the digitisation of the driving licence marks part of a larger trend towards the use of biometrics in people’s everyday lives, whether that be the use of a customer’s heartbeat, fingerprint or a selfie. “However, where digital identities are concerned, the need to verify the individual is genuine and not using a stolen identity or forgery, is critical not only for any digital initiative’s success, but also the safety of the end user,” he said.

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