Which states have implemented facial recognition tech during driver’s license photos? Are there any states that this will be implemented soon? What are the outcomes from this technology?
To thwart identity theft, facial recognition is used when obtaining driver’s licenses. Read on to find what this technology is and how your state is using it.
One driver, one license.
In an ideal world, that’s how it should be. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. Instead, nefarious individuals obtain multiple licenses by using different names. These individuals then use these fraudulent driver’s licenses and state IDs to do everything from cashing checks to opening new bank accounts to even boarding domestic flights.
However, the government has been fighting back against identity theft.
Following the September 11 attacks, where the terrorists behind the attacks had multiple driver’s licenses in different names, Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005. Because driver’s licenses are issued at the state level, the DMV is the de facto identity management facility in the U.S. As such, this law established new requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID, such as facial recognition, in order to combat criminals.
But what exactly is facial recognition? Where’s it being used? And what have been the repercussions?
What is Facial Recognition?
Facial recognition is a biometric technology used to identify faces. By identifying an individual's face, it confirms their identity. This means that an individual cannot have multiple driver’s licenses or state IDs.
The technology, which has been experimented with since the 1960s, works like this.
When you visit your local DMV to renew your license, for example, your face is captured by a digital video camera. The physical and behavioral samples captured are then extracted in order to create and compare templates. In just a matter of seconds the technology determines if this is a new sample or matches an existing sample from a facial database.
As Dmitro Boiko, an app developer with a Ph.D in the field of engineer systems, explains in an article for TecSynt:
“Various distinguishable landmarks of facial features are measured by facial recognition tech (FRT) from approximately 80 nodal points, creating a faceprint – a numerical code. Some of these features include length of the jawline, cheekbones shape, distance between the eyes and the depth of the eye sockets, and the nose width. The measurements gathered by the system are then put in a database and compared to other detected faces when a certain person stands before the camera.”
“In short, the use of facial recognition software allows your CCTV security algorithms to trigger an alert when it identifies particular individuals from a hit list. It is an irreplaceable technology equally for finding shoplifters, scam artists, or potential terrorists,” adds Boiko.
Which States Are Using Facial Recognition?
Forty-three of the 50 states are using some type of facial recognition technology. Between 2013 and 2016, seven of these states began using the system for driver’s licenses. The states not using facial recognition include California, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
However, according to a 2016 report published by Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology, almost half of all U.S. adults are in facial recognition networks because they have licenses in states where police are permitted to search driver's license photos for face matches. In fact, the report states that “at least 26 states (and potentially as many as 30) allow law enforcement to run or request searches against their databases of driver’s license and ID photos.”
What’s more, the FBI has access to driver’s license photos of 18 states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Vermont.
What Have Been the Outcomes of Facial Recognition Technology?
In 2015, the Arizona Department of Transportation reported that thanks to facial recognition software, it increased the number of potential fraudulent ID cases by about 860 percent.
In 2014, a fugitive who had escaped a North Carolina prison in the 1970s was caught in Iowa when he tried to apply for a driver's license using another name thanks to facial recognition technology.
In New Jersey, the facial recognition has led to the arrest of sixty-nine people who were trying to obtain fake licenses.
And in New York, the technology resulted in more than 4,000 arrests.
"The use of this facial recognition technology has allowed law enforcement to crack down on fraud, identity theft, and other offenses - taking criminals and dangerous drivers off our streets and increasing the safety of New York's roadways," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. "We will continue to do everything we can to hold fraudsters accountable and protect the safety and security of all New Yorkers."
In fact, according to a study of the program by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, of more than 12,300 cases that involved drivers with multiple licenses who may be fraud problems, 24% of them didn’t have a valid license under their own name.
"The DMV is putting would-be fraudsters on notice: we will not allow people to manipulate the system with multiple licenses or stolen identities," added Terri Egan, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner. "New York has a simple policy: one driver, one record. If your license is suspended or revoked, the days of getting a second one to try to keep driving are over."
On the flip side, there are concerns over facial recognition technology. The report above from Georgetown Law’s Center for Privacy and Technology found that it is not only unregulated on the national level, but there are also privacy concerns. In fact, states like California and Vermont have banned facial technology at their respective DMVs.
Furthermore, as noted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “face recognition is notoriously inaccurate across the board and may also misidentify African Americans and ethnic minorities, young people, and women at higher rates than whites, older people, and men, respectively.”
As facial recognition technology continues to advance — it’s even featured in the iPhone X — and it continues to prevent identity theft, don’t be surprised if facial recognition becomes a part of the driver’s license renewal process.