Smiles banned for New Jersey driver’s licenses

October 5, 2012 - 

Starting immediately, the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is not permitting smiles on driver license photos due to a new facial scanning system it is using.

The new facial scanning software, which the DMV acquired in January, is helping the state eliminate fraud. The software is designed to review over 19 million driver photo records to authenticate driving records and to ensure persons only hold one license.

To ensure that old driver photos match replacement licenses, facial expressions need to be consistent. Smiling messes up the distances in the face and other match points that the computer uses to identify a person. If a new photo does not match the old one; or if it finds a match to another driver license record, then the system will flag the file for investigation.

Mike Horan, spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, explained to Philadelphia Daily News that the US$4.1 million technology is just one of the many security measures that the commission has undertaken. With the new software, the goal is to catch identity thieves. If a mismatch happens, Horan explains: “That could be someone trying to steal someone else’s identity to get insurance benefits, or someone trying to get out of DUI by getting a license under another name.”

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About T'ash Spenser

T’ash Spencer writes full time for She has 15 years experience in the field of regional planning and earned her Master’s of Science in Regional Development Planning and Management from the University of Dortmund, Germany. Follow her @tashspencer1.