Will California launch digital IDs this year?

Published On: January 20, 2023

The State of California will join a handful of other states that offer digital IDs, according to Governor Newsom who said the state is months away from allowing constituents to use their smartphones as a driver’s license or proof of identity.  The governor made the announcement on January 10 when he proposed this year’s state budget.

According to the budget summary, the Digital ID project has progressed and is currently in the midst of a testing phase.

“The California Department of Technology (CDT) continues progress on the Digital Identification project, creating a single digital identifier aimed at eliminating the need for California residents to provide their identity and manage multiple user IDs across various websites to obtain state services.”

Recently, CDT launched a pilot program with the California Department of Transportation, the California Integrated Travel Project, Monterey-Salinas Transit Agency, and U.S. General Services Administration’s Login.gov, testing an online tool that verifies identity for travelers eligible for discounted rides.

Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke about the project, noting that California’s Digital ID project will be among the best in the country.

“Know this, in just a matter of months we’re finally going to have those digital wallets where you can get your driver’s license on.” Newsom said. “And we’re going to do it like no other state has done it, and there’s only a few that have. But there’s issues. Ours we think will be next level.”

As for those issues, Newsom may be referring to conflicts with civil liberties prompted by the exchange and security of sensitive personal information.

While physical IDs present their own pitfalls in terms of sharing too much at times, a Digital ID may create situations where the exchange of basic information becomes the exchange of personal property. Mobile devices contain information superfluous to most interactions with, say, a TSA agent or CHP officer.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles told KRON4 in San Francisco that they will be rolling out a pilot program this spring. The pilot program includes the development of an open-source app and will include typical security thresholds, such as a PIN or biometric readings that are used by Apple and Android.

The shift towards a Digital ID hearkens back to CDT’s Vision 2023, which was released in Jan. 2021 and outlined the state’s emphasis to streamline access to government services via a single username and password.

“The California Department of Technology (CDT) requests a renewal of 2.0 positions and $1.2 million in General Fund (GF) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023-24 and FY 2024-25, to launch and maintain planned and existing pilot partner integrations, evaluate and implement additional requested features, scale the solution to additional state agencies, and engage with other public entities and the external developer community to provide a blueprint for privacy-centered SSO services,” says a budget change proposal submitted by CDT on January 10.

About the Author: Will Keys

Will Keys writes about technology issues for the GovReport. He is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. He can be reached at will at govreport.org