The reason you can’t smile for your driver’s license photo

20100122_dmv-camera_614mzIt’s technology that looks like it’s straight out of a CSI TV episode — facial recognition software — and it’s being used here in Iowa to solve crimes.

The software is one of the reasons why you can’t smile for your driver’s license anymore. Your DMV photo is stored in a secure database that helps put criminals behind bars.

Here’s how it works: First the computer takes measurements of your face and stores them as a template. Then the DOT can run a picture through the database to find a match based on the precise measurements. The clearer the picture, the better the results, authorities said.

“It doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, sex. It’s just strictly raw data based on those measurements that you saw,” said Paul Steier of the Iowa DOT. “The odds of it catching it very, very good.”

The high-tech software was created to prevent fraud in the driver’s license system, but the DOT quickly learned it can be used to solve all types of crimes including finding a fugitive on the run after 9-11.

“We got his driver’s license photo and put it through and he had actually gotten two licenses from us in Iowa under false identities,” said Steier.

Local, state and national authorities share images and use this software to solve cases across the country.

Iowa’s database so far has initiated about 700 false identity investigations.

“It’s just the beginning stages of what they are going to do so we would like to think that we probably prevented a lot of crimes from that,” said Steier.

Law enforcement cannot get a warrant for someone’s arrest based on a match in the software. But the software does provide authorities with valuable information like the person’s real name so authorities are able to track down criminals easier.

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