NSW's New Driver Licence App Has Some Worrying Permissions [Updated]

Image: Supplied

Yesterday Service NSW officially launched the Digital Driver Licence (DDL) app for Android and iOS devices statewide. The app, which is free to download, is an electronic version of your existing driver licence.

However, you might want to take a look at the permissions before hitting that install button. According to Google, downloading the app gives Service NSW access to your camera, calendar, storage and "confidential information". Here's what you need to know.

The NSW Digital Driver Licence can only be accessed through the Service NSW app. On the Google Play Store, applications are required to publicly declare all app permissions. By downloading the Service NSW app, you are consenting to the following:

This app has access to:

    Calendar

    - read calendar events plus confidential information

    - add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners' knowledge

    Camera

    take pictures and videos

    Photos / Media / Files

    - read the contents of your USB storage

    - modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

    Location

    - approximate location (network-based)

    - precise location (GPS and network-based)

    Storage

    - read the contents of your USB storage

    - modify or delete the contents of your USB storage

    Other

    - receive data from Internet

    - Google Play license check

    - full network access

    - prevent device from sleeping

    - view network connections

    - control vibration

    - pair with Bluetooth devices

That's, uh, a lot.

Now, it's worth noting that it's quite common for apps to have multiple permissions that seem unusual or unrelated to the app's chief function. More often than not there's an innocent explanation. With that said, giving a government agency access to all of the above might be construed as problematic by some users.

Interestingly, the South Australian digital driver licence asked for similar permissions when it launched back in 2017. At the time, the South Australian government was forced to deny it was inappropriately accessing private information about drivers through the app.

We're reaching out to Service NSW and will update the article when we hear back. In the meantime, you might want to hold off on downloading that digital licence - the one in your wallet still works just fine.


Update:

Service NSW has provided Lifehacker Australia with the following statement:

The Service NSW app is built with a privacy by design approach which prioritises the security of our customers’ private information.

There is a list found in the Android Play store which has prompted confusion because it shows a record of all permissions used in older versions of the app.

The only special permission requested in the latest version of the Service NSW app is the device camera which allows customers to use the Digital Driver Licence verifying and venue sign-in features. A customer can choose to turn this off and go without the features.

The special permissions in previous versions of the app always related directly to features and functionality which existed at the time. If we require special permissions in future, we will ask customers for their consent and clearly explain why we need it.

Service NSW has built the app to deliver an exceptional experience and not to monitor our customers.

How To Set Up Your Digital Driver Licence In NSW

Service NSW today launched Australia's second Digital Driver Licence (DDL). The electronic vehicle licence is available on Android and iOS devices via the Service NSW app and can be downloaded free of charge.

Does it completely replace your plastic licence? Can you use it as a proof-of-age card? And what happens when you have no data? Here's everything you need to know.

Read more


Comments

    Been using the service app past year or more as its great to renew and pay for rego, get reminders as well to pay. Can check demerit points, pay those fines all through the app, so licence is a added bonus, actually shocking how easy it was to connect. I opened the app and first way do you want to connect licence, i did and 2 clicks later was done. The permissions always do urk me because wonder why they need so much but most apps are like that. Being a government one, guess should set the alarms bells off but also using google and facebook are the same if not worse.

    Having downloaded the app this morning, I didn't recall being asked for any permissions. Checked, and lo and behold, no permissions at all. Camera is the only one possible, and it was off by default.

      The permissions are listed on the app's Google Play Store page - you need to click on 'permissions' to see the list.

        It seems like they just didn't update the store page from the old permissions list. If you install the app and check the app permissions on your phone @cynic is correct, it only asks for camera permissions which is denied by default.

        In fact, if I'm not wrong, even if it wants those permissions listed on the store page. It has to ask for each of them individually once you've installed the app and opened it for the first time. I don't think android allows automated authorization of permissions.

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