Musings on an “Apple ID Store”

[Originally posted Apr. 6, 2015 here, “second half” of the post: It kind of always was its own post.

Context: ]

And Now for a Totally Different Brick-and-Mortar Concept

The other month, Tim Cook envisioned a post-wallet world where, say, a passport and a driver’s license (and a health insurance card, and so on) can be kept in digital form (about 8:30 in). The obvious silent assumptions – that they’re provisioned to a device, one designed by Apple and purchased by its customers (say, a future iPhone, at least for now).

“Wait a minute. You’re not suggesting, even in a far-future, potentially-highly-unlikely scenario, that Apple will actually set up brick-and-mortar establishments to directly support your digital identity? Going from the ol’ Apple ID to an actual Apple ID Store?!”


Hey, why not?

To be clear, I have no idea when even digital government ID pilot programs would begin. Mainstreaming? Feels like decades away. And yes, there are enormous barriers to Apple even getting peripherally involved in ID storage, provisioning and protection and it’s not hard to think of a few right off the bat.

• In the US alone, there’s 50 state governments to deal with, each with varying priorities and budgets, with up to 50 different approaches and possibly even more points of view on “privatizing” one of government’s essential functions. And if you can get past all that, there’s probably a competitive bid process, one that Apple, mighty as it is, is not guaranteed to win for any number of reasons.

• Even in such an iPhone stronghold market, the other half of smartphones run Android, complicating any common, secure digital ID platform whether in hardware or software. Will Apple join an existing standards consortium, or lead one of its own (say, in concert with IBM)?

• Lately, Apple’s taken a “hands off” approach to user data, on-device content/communications and payment info, rendering itself unable to see transactions and messages many other players are very keen on collecting, analyzing and profiling. Getting too involved in ID provisioning signals an opposite approach that would surely make privacy advocates wary.

And yet – national, state and local governments outsource to private companies (directly or indirectly) all the time. They don’t do full-in-house development of the software that takes your driver’s license photo. They didn’t in-house the computer, the printer or the plastic card stock/lamination.  Public universities partner with Google for e-mail and apps. CalPERS, one of the largest pension funds in the world with around $300 billion in assets under management, has a ton of external investment managers. Infineon (sound familiar?) is (or was) a supplier of the chip embedded in the current chip-embedded US passports. As I understand it, Smart Card Alliance members use their products and technologies to control facility access by government employees and authorized contractors across the globe.

Believe it or not, millions upon millions of customers place a lot of trust in Apple. Who’s to say Apple won’t have a seat at the table when demand, or necessity, for digital, provisionable identification reaches a critical point? By then, Apple will have had some time to prove it effectively safeguards payment information, and has a gold standard trusted security platform (given Apple Pay, probably co-developed or consortium-led) that states can build their ID provisioning upon.

Of course, that also means there may come a time where Apple will “cross a line” and need to take greater responsibility for digital ID provisioning, even identity protection. Hence, the need to be more than just online and on the phone.

So…will Apple issue your driver’s license? Yeah, probably not. I don’t think it’d want to. But once your government ID’s been provisioned to a trusted, presumably secure electronic device such as an iPhone (hello, biometrics), you have the items needed (along with, in most cases, your biometrics and your face) for identity verification, no small or uncommon thing in this world. Most US citizens need only update their driver’s license/State ID every 4-8 years or so, and passports every 10. But they’re displayed and checked against much more often than that.

And there’s three firms that come to mind that do identity verifications quite a lot: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

A retail installation that assists with identity integrity, maybe as part of a paid identity protection service? Offers notary/verification services for certain major online and offline transactions? Helps lock down all provisioned digital ID cards along with payment tokens in case of physical or virtual theft, and warns the major credit rating agencies? That’s crazy talk!

Then again, in 2001, no one thought Apple would become a worldwide music store (now with radio station and its own version of Spotify), much less make a smartphone (almost a billion of them at this point) with biometrically-secured contactless payments. And a certain Channel Marketing Corp. president gave Apple Retail two years before it turned out the lights on a very painful and expensive mistake.

So who knows. Maybe there’s something to Apple brick and mortar expanding to support other aspects of customers’ digital lives after all.

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