OLYMPIA -- A new look to Washington driver licenses and facial recognition software will make it harder for identity thieves to do business in Washington, the Department of Licensing announced.
The agency is expanding the use of facial recognition technology, a security measure already used in the Enhanced Driver License program, to safeguard regular driver licenses and ID cards. Changes to the driver license are coming as well — by shifting the picture to the left side and adding an identical but smaller, shaded photo on the right, the licenses will be harder to fake.
The new design will be phased in as people renew, starting in June.
“These are steps we’re taking to help keep people’s finances and identities secure,” DOL Director Liz Luce said. “Facial recognition has proven effective with the Enhanced Driver License program and goes a long way to stop thieves and keep people’s identities their own.”
Gov. Chris Gregoire proclaimed April 26-30 as Identity Theft Awareness Week.
Essentially a math-based facial mapping system, the software creates unique facial “templates” based on each driver license or ID card photo to identify potential matches of the same face associated with different names. From there, Department of Licensing investigators take over the case, examining actual photographs and other information to determine if criminal activity, including identity theft, is occurring.
The template is a digital representation of the relative locations of facial features that aren’t easy to alter, such as eye sockets, cheekbones, and sides of the mouth. The agency doesn’t collect any more data from citizens for the system to work – just the typical license photo.
Investigators say most matches will be easily resolved; the results of marriages or legal name changes, while some will be clear cases of criminal activity. They’ve already linked one individual by photograph to 36 different identities.
The system can only be accessed by investigators with the Department of Licensing who have gone through extensive background checks.
“We’re going to look at our findings on a case-by-case basis,” Luce said. “We will handle a lot of the minor cases administratively, and forward the serious suspected criminal activity to law enforcement agencies.”
Luce says the agency offers copies of driving records online for a nominal fee. That’s one step for drivers to make sure they haven’t been victimized.
To get a look or download an image of the new driver license/ID card design, go to the DOL blog at http://licensingexpress.wordpress.com/