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Illinois to integrate facial recognition for driver’s licenses and ID cards


The State of Illinois will begin integrating facial recognition features this week in its driver’s licenses and identification cards as it gradually moves toward compliance with the federal Real ID law, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White said on Tuesday that by the end of July, the state government will now issue a temporary paper license or ID valid for 45 days at the end of the application process at driver’s license offices, instead of a new permanent driver’s license or ID card/

The applicant’s photo will then be registered into a facial recognition system, and the DMV will issue the applicant a permanent license or ID via mail in approximately 15 days.

“These changes are designed to further enhance our efforts to protect Illinoisans from fraud and identity theft,” White said. “These changes are required by the United States Department of Homeland Security to meet the Real ID requirements.”

In mid-June, three driver’s license offices will begin offering the new facial recognition licenses and ID cards, although officials did not say which ones. Additionally, some safe-driver renewal applicants will be receiving the new driver’s licenses as early as this week.

Illinois is one of 27 states that is either not in compliance or is transitioning to comply with the Real ID Act, which enforces more stringent identification regulations for passing through airport security and entering federal buildings. Earlier this year, Homeland Security pushed back the compliance deadline to 2018.

Those residents who have not received their permanent card in the mail will also be able to use the temporary paper document in concert with an old driver’s license or ID card to board an airplane.

The Real ID Act has its fair share of critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that the law is an invasion of privacy and would make people more prone to identity theft.

According to Ed Yohnka, director of communications at American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, transitioning over to a national identification card would infringe on the public’s privacy rights.

“Once you have this national database, the only natural thing to do next is to take it and begin to use it to track people,” Yohnka said. “Then you are just creating a huge surveillance system, and that’s the real danger.”

Yohnka said that with a Real ID, the government would be able to potentially monitor people’s purchases and whereabouts.

However, White affirmed that the process will curb any potential fraud and identity theft before applicants receive their driver’s license or ID card.

Jim Burns, inspector general for the secretary of state’s office, said that once applicants take their photograph at a local office, a digital copy will immediately be sent to Springfield to compare the image against a library of several million digital photos.

“We have in Illinois one of the better facial recognition systems in the country,” Burns said. “Those digital photos will match up in our facial recognition system, and if we have a problem … it will immediately kick up, whereas the old counter service, they would already be out the door and it might be 48 hours later that you discover a problem with it.”

According to Michael Mayer, the director of the driver services department, the license also has secure parameters due to the laser technology engraved into the card.

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