Getting down to brass tacks with DDL

Last updated: 12 January 2018

It seems like nearly every day there is a new article or conversation surrounding the trends and implications of a mobile or digital driver’s license. And while this is a subject that we have been talking about for a few years – often times outside of our DDL-obsessed Gemalto bubble – many people are learning about this concept for the first time. As such, we continually see the same questions arising from those that are considering the benefits and the challenges presented by the possibility of carrying your driver’s license or other identification credential on your smartphone.

In an effort to bring a little clarity and share some of the insights and perspectives we have gained over the years, I am kicking off a blog series dedicated to the FAQs of DDLs. As a caveat, I must state that these answers are not necessarily the only possible answer, but rather my opinion based on what our team has learned working through the various details.

Download our infographic of DDL essentials and FAQs here.

So grab a coffee, take a deep breath, put on your thinking cap or open your mind or whatever works for you, and let’s tackle the brass tacks of DDL together, one question at a time.

Chapter one:

In the beginning, the state government issued hard copies of driver’s licenses. And then they decided to explore a new technology, so everyone had to immediately get rid of their license and go buy a new smartphone… Just kidding! But it is certainly a point to discuss, as one of the first concerns people consistently have when talking about the implementation of a DDL is the “out with the old, in with the new” approach to innovations.


Do you think that a digital driver’s license will replace a traditional one?

My answer:

Clearly we see the DDL as a supplement to a traditional plastic license and it will be completely optional for people to enroll.

The emergence of DDL technology doesn’t mean that the plastic DL/ID will disappear, but for the portion of the population that prioritizes convenience and streamlined technology, it could become their primary form of identification, especially as acceptance becomes more widespread. For people who simply want to use this as a backup or alternative method of carrying their driver’s license, they will likely use both in different applications depending on their preference. And for those that do not wish to use this new technology, the process and usage of their traditional DL/ID will remain the same.

Looking beyond the next decade, do we see a trend moving towards digital? Yes. Digital is clearly picking up speed across all areas, but it takes time for a trend to tip the scales and become a majority. Look at eBooks: initially people were resistant to the idea of not having a printed version of a book, but eBooks are now the predominant form in the US. This doesn’t mean you cannot still buy paper books if you choose, but indicates a consumer preference for convenience and mobility.

Mobile payments are also mirroring this usage path – some people tap their phone left and right to pay with ease; some people use it only at a specific merchant where they see some benefit (hello, Starbucks rewards); and some people choose not to pay with their phone at all. The bottom line is that with any supplemental technology, usage is entirely based on the user’s preference.


So, if I decide to use a DDL on my phone, who owns the personal information on my digital license?

My answer:

As-is the case with your traditional plastic driver’s license, the personal data itself (your name, date of birth, address, etc.) is managed by the state’s motor vehicle administration division. They are responsible for collecting and maintaining this source data. Once the personal driver’s license information is loaded onto to the phone, you as the end-user retain complete control of where it is used, who can access it, and to what extent.


If I opt to use a DDL, will it have a tracking component to monitor my smartphone usage or my location?

My answer:

No, Gemalto’s DDL solution involves no geo-location tagging or tracking of user information. Because the application requires no additional permissions or access to any other elements on the device, it does not have any background operations or transmission of data. The only time the application is active, is when the user launches the application, enters their pin or fingerprint, and chooses to access their credentials. The rest of the time, when not activated by the user, the data is securely stored, encrypted, and not accessible by anyone.

Now that we have survived the first chapter, you hopefully have a better understanding of the DDL as being a supplemental service that a citizen can elect to use, with confidence and trust that their personal information is protected. Stay tuned for the next chapter in our series, as we take a look at privacy and the potential pitfalls of technology.


We’ll be covering more frequently asked questions soon, but in the meantime, learn more about digital driver’s licenses here.




One thought on “Getting down to brass tacks with DDL

  1. Great intro to a whole new world Tiffany! I look forward to sharing Chapter 1 and seeing what lies ahead in your future posts. #1 question I hear….what if your phone dies or is stolen. Possible topic for your next addition. 🙂

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