Maybe the facial recognition technology isn't that good, then

Couldn't pass up an opportunity to be snarky: Nebraska has started instructing people not to smile for their driver's license photos. Why?
The new slight-smile rule is part of several security upgrades that will be made to the state's licenses next month. And smiles can cause problems for the facial recognition software Nebraska plans to use.
I'm really curious as to which facial recognition software they've invested in (and for what purpose) that doesn't work well if people are smiling. The only guess I can come up with is that they'd have a database of criminal faces and the computer storing the driver's license photos would be linked to that database, identifying matches so that criminals can't get false licenses (otherwise, the name alone would trigger a match with anyone wanted for a warrant or something). And the criminal faces would all be mug shots (not known for containing a lot of smiles, I'm guessing). Still, I wouldn't want to be the salesman trying to push the facial recognition software that only works if the two faces are wearing the same expression. I mean, what happens if the guy grows a mustache? Are you just totally screwed then? Nor would I want to be the guy policing smiles at the DMV: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's too much of a smile. We're only allowing a slight smile ... nope, that's still not slight enough ... mmm, okay, a little too frowny, actually, go with slightly more smile ... okay, hold it, hold it - got it. Thanks ma'am, that should be ready in a couple minutes."


Hi Sam,

Agreed - it's problematic.

Also, it's not just Nebraska. A number of states are doing it - see this article about Virginia:

Money quote: "Few places in Virginia are as draining to the soul and as numbing to the buttocks as the branch offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles. And yet, until recently, smiling was still permitted there. No More"

The "no smile" requirement has been part of the underlying International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements for years. See this 2004 discussion at -,39024677,39123116,00.htm Excerpt:

"So how exactly does smiling hamper the facial recognition systems? 'The smile alters the position and the structure of the eyes and nose, which are the three principal identification points which characterise a face,' according to Thales Security and Supervision, a subsidiary of the French security and defence technologies group,

'The haircut or beard have less effect on facial recognition,' it continues, adding that facial recognition techniques currently use an average of 128 points of comparison."

John H: Damn, that's a good lead in the Post. Wish I had written that.

John B: Thanks for that link. I guess I was being a little flippant (shocker, I know), since I did sort of know that that's been the policy for passports for some time now. But I think facial recognition technology should have come a long way since 2004, for example, and I think it points to a real flaw in the technology that such lengths need to be extended in order for it to work.

Not to mention, having a bad driver's license photo sucks. I'm very proud of the practiced smirk on mine. I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to do away with it. I've been cultivating it since I was 16.