A patent application filed by Apple with the USPTO last March, envisions using the iPhone as a "proof-of-identity." The USPTO published the application on Wednesday. Titled "Document importation into secure element," the filing details how an iPhone could use a short-range radio (NFC or RFID) to store a person's credentials that have been embedded inside a circuit. The latter would be placed in a document issued by an authority (such as a driver's license). The credentials stored in the handset, such as a person's name, address and birth date, could then be used as prove the phone owner's identity.
When there is a request for information, the iPhone owner could use a password, a fingerprint or facial recognition (on the iPhone X
) to authenticate his identity, and this would release the personal data to the authority seeking the information. This could be useful inside a factory that restricts access to parts of the facility to certain employees.
The patent application also notes the possible use of this system to release a person's passport number to a customs official, even if the person doesn't have the passport in his possession. The iPhone owner would authenticate his identity on the handset, releasing his/her passport number to the official. However, current law requires that travelers have their passports with them when traveling between certain countries. Apple would have to work out deals with a number of foreign governments in order to allow the iPhone to be used as a replacement for a passport.
The patent application is number 20180225662.