01 May New DMV tool never forgets a face
Madison, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles has deployed a new facial recognition technology, and it’s taking a bite out of crime.
Preventing mischief in the issuance of driver’s licenses and identification cards is the work of Phil Alioto, a fraud prevention specialist with the DMV, and it hasn’t always been easy. With the right identification like a Social Security card or a birth certificate, a clever thief could use the driver’s license issuing process to establish a new identity. With computerized facial recognition technology, identity theft, particularly the kind that involves multiple IDs with multiple names, might now require the skills of the most gifted plastic surgeon in Hollywood.
In less than eight months, facial recognition technology has helped the DMV cancel approximately 600 products, mostly driver’s licenses and identification cards. “It has ranged from underage people trying to get an ID under a different name for either tobacco or alcohol,” Alioto said, “to someone who was convicted of a sexual assault of a child and trying to change his identity and get a driver’s license under a different name.”
Facial recognition technology, a biometric solution used in fraud prevention, also has helped DMV expose a drug dealer that tried to change his identity through the driver’s license issuing process. In a nutshell, the technology works as follows: Each day, the approximately 5,500 images taken in DMV facilities are compared with the six million images in its database. An algorithm is calculated for each face, and the computer matches “like images” based on the algorithm.
The DMV uses facial recognition to do a one-to-one match, which helps prevent an impostor from stealing an identity that already has been established with DMV. If someone comes in and tries to get a duplicate driver’s license under a certain name – their own or someone else’s – the facial recognition will compare the new image that was taken to the image on file for that name. If the two images aren’t close, that will put a stop to the transaction and require two DMV employees to review it.
“We get a list of possible matches each morning,” Alioto said. “Staff goes through and reviews those matches to see if, indeed, it’s one person trying to get two identities.”
The vendor of the facial identification technology is Viisage, a Billerica, Mass.-based provider of digital identification systems. In September of last year, the DMV let out bids to contract for a new driver’s license issuance system. Viisage, which markets its technologies to governments, law enforcement agencies, and businesses, was the department’s vendor prior to this competitive bidding process, and it successfully secured the new bid.
Facial recognition is a product that Viisage has had for awhile, and when the DMV put out bids for the new issuance system, it requested that facial recognition be part of the package.
Thus far, implementation and operation have been fairly seamless, even with the need for human intervention to examine the images and make the matches. “You simply can’t say, `well, the computer came up with a match,'” Alioto said. “It does take people to review the images, but the reviews go pretty quickly.”
The DMV runs the facial recognition system at night, and has two people check possible matches each morning. For people over 18 that are getting an ID card or a driver’s license for the first time, the department does not give them a product over the counter; it mails them. However, it does not mail them to first-time applicants until a facial recognition review is conducted. For those who come in for a duplicate driver’s license or to renew a driver’s license, there is no delay in the process, Alioto stated.
Alioto said the DMV pays the contractor on a per-card basis, but noted that the cost of the new issuance system, with facial recognition technology, is less than what it was paying under the old contract.
For those who wonder whether the technology does anything to improve their driver’s license photo, the answer is no. Facial recognition technology has no impact on the photograph, although DMV claims it has better camera technology with this new contract. “Our photos are crisper, cleaner, and better,” he said, “but the facial recognition uses information from the photo, it doesn’t impact the photo.”