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Happy days are over for drivers in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia, which have banned smiles on license photos.  (Source: NY Daily News)

Diana Kim, of Fairfax, Va. isn't smiling as she gets her license -- it's banned in her state.  (Source: USA Today)
Turn that smile upside down

As high-tech licenses become increasingly hard to forge, the Department of Motor Vehicles has found that one popular approach to obtaining fraudulent license is for someone to pose as a friend or colleague in an effort to get an official license.  New high-tech software uses facial recognition to warn officials if the face of the person being licensed matches someone already licensed.

However, there's one problem -- the algorithms often fail if people are making different faces in the two photos.  So four states -- Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia -- are telling drivers to wipe that grin off their face.  No more happy days for licensing, the states have declared, drivers must adopt "neutral facial expressions".

Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Takeo Kanade acknowledges that the move is necessary given the poor state of facial recognition technology when it comes to facial expressions.  Researchers still have yet to catch up to the inherent processing capability of the human brain, which can recognize familiar faces in a broad variety of expressions.

Karen Chappell, deputy commissioner of the Virginia DMV says that the smile ban is necessary to "make the comparison process more accurate."

Some citizens who were initially offended are changing their tune, deciding that the rule is in the best interest of national security.  States Elaine Mullen of Great Falls, Va., "It's probably safer from a national-security point of view."

Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada do still allow small smiles.  Currently 31 states in total do computerized matching of driver's license photos, and 3 others are considering it.  Of the 27 other states without anti-smiling policies, many are considering adopting similar measures.  Some states though are resisting the movement.  Pennsylvania Transportation Department spokesman Craig Yetter, states, "People can smile here in Pennsylvania."

Even without a smile-ban, Illinois stopped 6,000 people from getting fraudulent licenses since 1999, according to Beth Langen, the state head of Drivers Services.

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RE: And the sheep say...
By FaaR on 5/28/2009 8:46:43 AM , Rating: 2
Why do you feel a need to "express" yourself on your ID card photo?

ID card photos do not exist for purposes of expression, they exist for the express purpose of identification.

You sound like you're complaining just for the sake of it. I'm sure that you agree that since there are hucksters, fraudsters, criminals and (yes) terrorists out there, we need a means to identify ourselves and make certain we are who we say we are. Do you not also agree then that ideally this identification process should be as precise as we can make it, so that you can't fake your ID, or erroneously be mistaken for someone else?

RE: And the sheep say...
By mindless1 on 5/28/2009 9:06:46 AM , Rating: 1
Well in THAT case, someone who is apt to smile in real life would be more easily identified on their ID if it had a picture of them smiling.

Look at it the other way. Since someone now isn't smiling on their ID, all they have to do to avoid detection by security cameras with facial recognition is SMILE. Even worse, now they know to do such a simple thing and unlike a mask, there's no overt sign they are trying not to be detected by a security camera since people do routinely smile.

Either way the argument they make about security is a load of bull. They could simply require more proof for identification purposes, and they don't want you to know that whether someone is smiling or not is not the only problem with current facial recognition software.

No, I do not agree that facial recognition software would be, or needs to be, so accurate that something a person would naturally do has to be taken away from them. It seems such a trivial thing but you don't understand it is the principle, principles being worth far more than money.

Money where my mouth is, I'd rather pay a few bucks more for the license and not have to bend over for legislators deciding my rights aren't as important as the idea of safeguarding a country that claims to uphold our rights. A bit ironic.

Let me put it to you another way. Either nobody has ever faked my ID, or the consequence of it was irrelevant as it had no effect on my life. I have not been erroneously mistaken for something else because of this, in fact most states do not do it, in fact the states that do did not do it for many many years.

I totally disagree that we should change a process that thus far has worked well enough. If someone is going to forge a license in this day and age they can just do so instead of going to the DMV at all to get a fake, and I would speculate that is how the majority are done so this becomes even more off the wall an idea with more cons than pros no matter how you look at it so long as you look at all angles.

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