Apple asks states to pay up for iPhone's digital ID cards

Apple asks states to pay up for iPhone’s digital ID cards

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Driver's licenses and IDs in Apple Wallet
Supporting digital IDs won't be cheap.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s strict requirements for digital ID cards in the iPhone’s Wallet app ask states to provide customer support and contribute to costs, according to a new report.

Cupertino wants states to maintain the systems needed to distribute digital IDs, hire project managers to respond to Apple inquiries, and market the feature themselves — all at the taxpayer’s expense, leaked contracts reveal.

The secret rules behind Apple’s digital IDs

The new Wallet upgrade, announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June, allows iPhone users to swap physical IDs for brand-new digital ones. Apple sells it as an easier, more affordable, and more secure way to distribute and carry identity cards.

However, to add a digital ID to Wallet, you need to live in one of a handful of states that will support the feature. States that support the digital IDs must agree to a strict list of terms set by Apple — and commit to helping pay for maintenance and support.

“The 7-page memorandum of agreement … mostly portrays Apple as having a high degree of control over the government agencies responsible for issuing identification cards,” reports CNBC, which obtained a copy of the contract.

“Apple has ‘sole discretion’ for key aspects of the program, including what types of devices will be compatible with the digital IDs, how states are required to report on the performance of the effort, and when the program is launched.”

Apple also gets to review and approve any marketing states choose to carry out for digital IDs. The confidential contracts look similar to the agreements Apple typically makes with vendors, the report says. However, in this case, Apple is asking states to cough up.

Support digital IDs won’t be cheap

States must agree to “allocate reasonably sufficient personnel and resources (e.g., staff, project management and funding) to support the launch of the Program on a timeline to be determined by Apple,” the documents read.

“If requested by Apple, Agency will designate one or more project manager(s) who shall be responsible for responding to Apple’s questions and issues relating to the Program.” They must also offer the new feature “proactively.”

This includes “prominently” featuring the digital ID feature “in all public-facing communications relating to Digital Identity Credentials,” Apple says, subject, of course, to Apple’s prior review and approval.

Apple prohibits states from passing these costs onto users. But users ultimately will pay anyway because their tax dollars will fund implementation.

Apple stays quiet

It’s a complete win-win for Apple, then. It not only means that Cupertino won’t have to pay for the rollout of digital IDs itself, but it also makes iPhone even more indispensable to those who choose to take advantage of the feature.

Apple declined to comment on the contracts when asked by CNBC. The states whose contracts CNBC reviewed — Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma and Kentucky — did not respond to requests for comment, either. Other states in line to add driver’s licenses and state IDs to Wallet include launch partners Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland and Utah. Florida became the ninth state to sign up for the program in mid-October.