N.C. DMV to Use Facial Recognition Scanners

The state Division of Motor Vehicles on Friday will begin scanning and digitizing the faces of people applying for or renewing driver's licenses, a measure officials said would help cut ID fraud and find suspected terrorists.

The face recognition technology that goes into use at DMV offices around the state compares facial features with digital images in the agency's database to verify the identity of each applicant, Gov. Mike Easley's office said in a statement Thursday. The images will also be matched against those on federal terrorist watch lists.

``This is another vital step in making our state a more secure place in which to live, work and travel,'' Easley said. ``This new tool will allow us to continue our efforts to make North Carolina's driver license procedures among the strongest in the nation. It is proof of our strong stand against identity fraud, the nation's fastest growing crime.''

The process uses computer software to define characteristics of each face being photographed for a license. Facial features measured by the computer include the distance between eyes, the width of the nose, the depth of eye sockets, and the location of cheekbones and the chin.

The measured features are then converted into a numerical code that can be read by computers that verify identity.

``As the system grows and more images are added, we will have a powerful database that will significantly strengthen our efforts to prevent identity theft in North Carolina,'' DMV commissioner George Tatum said.

The face scans were first proposed in February as part of an effort to cut ID fraud.

Earlier, DMV reduced the types of accepted forms of identification for first time applicants for a driver license or ID card. DMV now accepts only proof of identity documents issued by federal or state governments, such as a valid out-of-state driver license or a passport.

In May, the DMV started using a link that allows examiners to verify the Social Security numbers of an ID applicant with the Social Security Administration.

The DMV plans to roll out a new license and identification card later this fall. They are expected to be harder to fake due to features including added color and watermarks.