Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Please look at the DMV camera and smile

Take a look at your driver’s license.  Are you grinning broadly from ear to ear?  Probably not. Some states actually frown on smiling when you have your driver’s license photo snapped.

Wisconsin is one of 31 states that use facial recognition technology to take driver license photos at their Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) bureaus and more states are considering installation.. The technology carefully examines various facial features to compare a new license photo with others that have already been taken. If a new photo appears to be nearly identical to a previous photo, the high-tech software is triggered that someone could be attempting to take on another driver’s identity. Security is enhanced and fraud is reduced.

However, some believe something as simple as a grin can throw off the technology.  A robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh told USA TODAY that differing expressions on the face of the same person can prevent the system from coming up with successful matches. The thought in Virginia is that little or no facial expression makes for a more accurate procedure.

As a result, four states, Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada have adopted a no-smiles policy for taking driver’s license photos. They require motorists to display neutral facial expressions. What does that mean? You can smile; however, you can only smile a little.

One driver in Virginia was recently told that because his mouth was open, the picture had to be taken again. In other words, in the four states mentioned, no grinning is best. If you grin, keep your mouth closed. Do not show any teeth.

In Nevada, there is more than just wiping the smile off your face. You must have your hair pulled behind your ears. You must take off your glasses.

Some drivers have been less than thrilled when told not to lighten up, assuming the order is a bureaucrat’s arbitrary notion. When told it’s for national security, they become more understanding.

Facial recognition technology works having nabbed sex offenders, welfare cheats and forgers.  The USA TODAY reports the software has prevented 6,000 people from obtaining fraudulent licenses in Illinois since the state installed the program during 1999.

According to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, most states are comfortable that their systems will match faces regardless of facial expressions. Wisconsin installed facial recognition technology during 2005 and the state Department of Transportation (DOT) is pleased with the program, saying it does reduce the possibility of fraud and identity theft. Unlike other states, Wisconsin does not enforce a no-smiles policy. You will even be encouraged to grin, as long as you don’t get too silly.

So the next time you visit the DMV for a new photo and you are instructed to, “Smile,” the DMV worker really means it.  Go right ahead and do it the Wisconsin way. Say, “cheese.”

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