The downside of electronic drivers licenses

Miguel at Gun Free Zone made a good point yesterday.

Many states are now offering electronic drivers licenses, downloaded to your cellphone.  The idea is that if you need to identify yourself (say, during a traffic stop, or when voting), you simply call up the license and hand your cellphone to the nice officer.

That, right there, may be a problem if you’ve been stopped in the course of a law enforcement function.  You’ve just handed the officer your unlocked, fully accessible cellphone.  If you’re arrested, the officer can now skim through anything and everything stored on that phone.  (It may or may not be legal for him to do so, but after the fact, excuses or extenuating circumstances can always be concocted.)  Even if you’re innocent of any crime other than speeding, the officer may decide that there are grounds for suspicion (even if only in his own mind), and scroll through every one of your contacts, text messages, e-mails, etc.  You may never know he’s done it, but your privacy will have been effectively shredded.  If that thought doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it should.

For myself, I’m going to stick to the old-fashioned credit-card-sized physical drivers license.  I feel safer that way.



  1. The will all be excused, of course, with that tired old saw 'The innocent have nothing to fear'.

    I got presented with that argument recently. I answered "That might be true if the Government didn't have a tiresome tendency to decide on the fly that some things are crimes today that weren't yesterday." The person I was talking to got quietly thoughtful….

  2. Same with insurance cards. And any other documents. Never ever give the police any more information than they request. As a witness, as a suspect, as anything.

    What I don't like about the virtual id is how easy it is to fake, even more so than regular identification.

    I can whip up something in 15 minutes that will pass all but the greatest scrutiny on a phone. How do I know? Because I used to do it at my former job. Fake documents, fake plate renewal stickers, the whole nine yards. Maybe an extra 10 minutes to make it look real good.

  3. I wonder if the issue that you have to use an unlocked phone to display this to an officer is actually the INTENT of this app? Never trust the .gov to be above board.

  4. Also, this may be part of their effort to mandate everyone must carry a tattletale smartphone at all times. You know, full time tracking device, audio recorder, etc…

  5. Use a long pin number as well. If they take your fingerprints, they can use that to open it if you use the print ID gadget to open it.

  6. Hey Peter;

    I agree, the old fashioned cards are the best. I have severe reservations about smart phones, there are no financial apps on my phone or anything else that could hurt me…except for a bunch of meme that I use to infuriate liberals on zuckerbook.

  7. The other problem is that if your phone breaks, or the battery dies, you have no license or proof of insurance.
    I do see it as a good idea to carry a backup license and insurance on your phone, but that could be just pictures for reference.

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