No Smiling for Passport Photos in Germany

Biometrics scan requires no grins so technology can better record facial features


BERLIN -- Germans were ordered Thursday to stay serious when having their photographs taken for new passports, wiping away any grins, smirks or smiles so that biometric scanners can pick up their facial features.

Interior Minister Otto Schily ordered passport authorities to only accept pictures taken from the front showing the "most neutral facial expression possible," starting Nov. 1.

Facial recognition systems match key features on the holder's face and work best when the face has a neutral expression with the mouth closed.

"A broad smile, however nice it may be, is therefore unacceptable," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

German officials showcased the new passports in June, saying that they would be much harder to forge or tamper with. Two scanned fingerprints are also to be stored on a chip built into the passport cover from March 2007.

The passports are part of a host of security measures passed by the German government after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Biometric passports have already been introduced in Canada and the United States.

The European Union agreed common standards in December last year.

(c) 2005 Associated Press