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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: WTH?!?!
By mindless1 on 5/28/2009 9:38:47 AM , Rating: 1
Point one: Anyone who needs a drivers license instead of only a state ID will presumably find some way to access a vehicle and go to another state for that license.

Point two: The problem is the software isn't remotely close to 100% even with no smiling, Takeo Kanade didn't say this would fix the problem, rather the software was such crap it was taken out of context that this would improve it some.

Allowing smiling and waiting for a person to check is not necessarily going to cause more false positives. It could easily be the opposite, that they consider it a success if it makes as many similar comparisons as possible to try and catch as many people as possible by having they all take the same grim facial expression, meaning your wait could be longer. Part of what makes people look different is their normal facial expression, among other things like state of alertness, standing up straight (angle light usually hits their face), how oily their skin is, what hue of makeup for women, amount of tan, weight gain or loss. All things humans discriminate better than a computer.

Point three: They want to make it routine, and it is to check identity. What they later do with the information is out of our control as they are the government. Ever hear of illegal wiretaps?

What it is mostly is an idea by a small group that they should impose their will on the majority of society for reasons they deem to be more important regardless of what society wants. That's anti-American. Fraud is more likely with a totally fake ID than someone actually going to the DMV and posing as someone else. I'd wager that with a photoshopped picture printed on plastic stock then laminated on both sides you could easily make a license from a few states away and pass it off in your own state, so ironically enough if the idea of not smiling to aid facial recognition were for routine ID checks, then it might serve a greater purpose than it will.

RE: WTH?!?!
By Unfixedyouth on 5/29/2009 12:07:07 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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