Apple patent application reveals intent to use iPhone as proof of identity, replacing driver’s licenses, passports

“Apple has considered the possibility of using the iPhone as a form of identification for the user, with one proposed onboard secure storage system using RFID having the potential to use a smartphone as an alternative to a passport for travelers at ports,” Malcolm Owen reports for AppleInsider. “Filed to the United States Patent and Trademark Office on March 30 and published on Thursday, the patent application for ‘Document importation into secure element’ describes how such a system could import credential data from a source. The same credentials could then be provided to an authority challenging the identity of the device owner as a form of proof.”

“The described electronic device has a short-range radio, namely RFID or NFC, and a secure element for holding data, as well as the ability to process data. Using RFID, the device acquires a ‘portion of credential information’ from an identification document issued by an authority, such as a driving license or a membership card,” Owen reports. “Once acquired, the device then issues a radio-based request to the issuing authority, triggering the authority to request the required credential portion. Once delivered then approved by the authority, the device then stores the acquired credentials in a secure element.”

“In future identification challenges, the device will be asked for the credentials by the authority, triggering the device to perform an authentication check with the user. While this could be as simple as entering a password, there is also a version that uses biometric security for the device-based authentication,” Owen reports. “In either case, successful authentication on the device would hand over data to the requesting party.”

Much more,including Apple’s patent application illustrations, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Hey, the 21st Century might finally get here after all!


  1. Not trying to activate the tin foil hat crowd, but a mobile phone with mike and camera that is always on line and tracked by GPS and tower triangulation that is also your Passport/Visa/ID Card?


    Not only no- hell no. Eff no.

  2. “Apple patent application reveals intent to use iPhone as proof of identity, replacing driver’s licenses, passports”

    “MacDailyNews Take: Hey, the 21st Century might finally get here after all!”

    Imagine that, a $35 physical driver’s license or a $100 passport will now be replaced by a $400 (minimum) iPhone. If you lose the iPhone or it becomes damaged/destroyed, well that’s another $400 (minimum).

    1. No, the iPhone you already have replaces the need to spend $135 on a drivers license and passport, effectively saving you $135 and the need to wait in long lines at the DMV to update your card or info.

      Additionally, check eBay. You can get a like new iPhone for ~$100.

      1. You still have to go to DMV to renew your license and phote. If you make an appointment, you can be in and out in about 30 minutes.

        Not everyone owns an iPhone. You say I can buy a used iPhone 8 for $100, I’m on it. The only iPhones like new on ebay are “parts only’.

  3. “Apple patent application reveals intent to use iPhone as proof of identity, replacing driver’s licenses, passports”

    Now you know why Apple decided never to upgrade the cheese grater Mac Pro with faster ports or anything else for so many years. Then there’s the trash can Mac Pro that only it’s mother (Apple) could love. Apple has a dept dedicated to thinking up ways for the iPhone to replace other things at great expense to the user.

    The Mac Pro burner has been cold for many years. Now you know why. Apple needs to split the Mac Pro and OSX from the rest of the company.

  4. Big talk from a company who don’t even let developers use the NFC hardware for anything else but payments!

    But in other news, can we all accept that passports are a conspicuous anachronism in today’s age? They are a physical document, not easily replaced, easily misused, and are usually STAMPED to show authorised entry and exit from a country. Plus, they cost lots to renew.

    A passport loaded into a smartphone (or stored in the cloud and accessed via one) could solve several issues. First, renewal could be done within a couple of days at a fraction of the current cost. Second, you could never really lose a passport because you’d just load it into your replacement device. Third, authentication challenges can make access to the passport more secure — possibly using the same biometric information the passport has on the bearer.

    Would this work in practice? Yes and no. You would need a significant uptake of the standard to make forgoing a regular passport worthwhile. Even a decade after being rolled out, ePassports are seldom useful outside your home country. If an authentication challenge requires internet connectivity, the tricky issues of wifi availability and data roaming need to be better addressed. Finally, what if your phone breaks in transit? Is the passport a true cloud document where devices are only a means to authenticate the bearer to access it? Or do you need to go through a process to load a passport into a new device?

    I look forward to innovation in this area, but also understand that true change to this ubiquitous travel document can only happen at the pace of the slowest adopter.

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