Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More Questions Than Paragraphs

Smile Not for Licenses

First. Such statements as "Ordering people to wipe the grins off" and "are required" are not the same as saying "serious poses are urged" but the latter phrase may or may not be citing the same policies or rules. It's certainly unclear.

Second. So let's say if you smile in the second photo but not the first, then you mess up the match. But what if you were smiling in the first photo? And how do some states manage to handle this without such a ban and others can not?

Third. What's the source of the comparison photo: DMV files? Nice to know. Or is some other search going on? Where are the originals coming from?

Fourth. Really, one state found 6,000 fraudulent license attempts? And that relates to smiling how? Would love to know more about this but I don't know how it fits with the no-smile policy.

Fifth. "Other states may follow" the no-smile ban. Or recommendation or suggestion. Really? What's the support for that statement?

Sixth. Elaine Mullen bristled "until she heard the reasoning." Hmm. Who provided it? And national security was cited? Again, really? That's what motor vehicle offices are claiming? Or is this yet another bit of collection of data for general purposes? Since at least one state has been doing this since 1999, I would think national security/AKA post-911 isn't an argument for its use.

Seventh. Haven't we been told how great this software is--that it's not fooled by beards or moustaches but a grin changes everything?

Eighth: "When a new photo seems to match an existing one, the software sends alarms that someone may be trying to assume another driver's identity." What? Someone else's identity? Or a false identity? If someone, say, changes his name, then an alarm would go off because the NEW photo looks like someone already on file? Wouldn't it work the other way--a new photo doesn't match someone whose name and photo are on file?

There are enough holes in this story to drive a truck through. With or without a license.

Four states adopt 'no-smiles' policy for driver's licenses

Stopping driver's license fraud is no laughing matter: Four states are ordering people to wipe the grins off their faces in their license photos.

"Neutral facial expressions" are required at departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia. That means you can't smile, or smile very much. Other states may follow.

The serious poses are urged by DMVs that have installed high-tech software that compares a new license photo with others that have already been shot. When a new photo seems to match an existing one, the software sends alarms that someone may be trying to assume another driver's identity.

But there's a wrinkle in the technology: a person's grin. Face-recognition software can fail to match two photos of the same person if facial expressions differ in each photo, says Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Takeo Kanade.

Dull expressions "make the comparison process more accurate," says Karen Chappell, deputy commissioner of the Virginia DMV, whose no-smile policy took effect in March.

Elaine Mullen of Great Falls, Va., bristled at the policy while renewing her license until she heard the reasoning. "It's probably safer from a national-security point of view," she says.

Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada allow slight smiles. "You just can't grin really large," Arkansas driver services chief Tonie Shields says.

A total of 31 states do computerized matching of driver's license photos and three others are considering it, says the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Most say their software matches faces regardless of expressions. "People can smile here in Pennsylvania," state Transportation Department spokesman Craig Yetter says.

In Illinois, photo matching has stopped 6,000 people from getting fraudulent licenses since the technology was launched in 1999, says Beth Langen, the state head of Drivers Services.

This story was distributed across several Yahoo and other sites yesterday.

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