States increasingly are foiling the crooks and scam artists by employing a high-tech tool: facial recognition software. The software uses algorithms of facial characteristics to compare driver’s license or ID photos with other department of motor vehicles (DMV) images on file, reported Stateline.
At least 39 states now use the facial recognition software in some fashion, and many say they’ve gotten remarkable results. In New York, thousands of people with false identities have been arrested, and even in the less populous state of Nebraska, hundreds have. Two states — New Jersey and New York — are now working together on a project to identify certain types of violators, a step that other states may follow.
Critics raise concerns about privacy invasion and potential abuse. While photo database access is limited to the DMV in some states, others allow sharing with law enforcement.
Here’s how facial recognition works: When someone applies for a driver’s license or ID, a photo is taken and the image is converted into a template created from the person’s unique physical features, such as cheekbones or the distance between eye pupils. An algorithm compares the image with others in the database, searching for a possible match.
If analysts discover that the image is associated with two or more identities, they try to figure out why. Sometimes, it’s a clerical error or the result of a name change after a marriage or divorce.
In some states the use of facial recognition has expanded. In Iowa, most law enforcement agencies can request that the DMV search its database. But this spring, the Department of Public Safety, which runs the state patrol and the department of criminal investigations, gained direct access, said Paul Steier, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s investigations bureau director.
In Nebraska, the state patrol and the Omaha and Lincoln city police departments can access the facial recognition system, said Betty Johnson, an administrator for the DMV there. All three departments have a user ID and password, and can load an image and perform their own searches.
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