It is against the law to smile on your drivers license?

Is it against the Law to Smile on Your Driver’s License?

According to USA Today four states have adopted a 'no smiles' policy for driver's license photos. It turns out, if someone smiles it is hard for photo recognition software to match their faces with the photo records so they don't know whether someone is trying to fraudulently get a driver's license. I find it fascinating that the government can force people not to smile. If you have read my research and articles on smiling on my website or the chapter on smiling in my book, you know that you can use over eighty different facial muscles to smile and that we typically see it as a spreading and upturning of the lips. It makes sense that a smile would make a face on a driver's license hard to recognize. A smile changes the face significantly enough that it can be detected and recognized after three seconds from a great distance - 300 feet, or the length of a football field. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Our ancestors needed to smile.

Though they did not attend a lot of cocktail parties where they needed to smile and make small talk they did run into other cavemen they did not know. So they smiled as they approached a stranger to say, “I am harmless. Don’t pick up your spear and kill me.” In fact, it is the oldest form of expression to show a desire to cooperate. So even when the smile was a football field away, the caveman knew the approaching caveman (or woman) was safe and that he shouldn’t be afraid.

Some states say that smiling doesn't affect their photo recognition software, so it is still okay to smile in Pennsylvania though not in Illinois. If I had to spend winters in Chicago I wouldn't be smiling anyway. I realize that checking photos reduces fraud, but for some reason it does feel a little 1984 Big Brother is watching you scary to know that all those photos are checked. I think that in the future we will move to a system of multiple forms of photo ID and then to chips that store a video of us moving and talking for identification.
If you would like to read the entire news story, I've included it is below.

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY
Stopping driver's license fraud is no laughing matter: Four states are ordering people to wipe the grins off their faces in their license photos.
"Neutral facial expressions" are required at departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia. That means you can't smile, or smile very much. Other states may follow.

LICENSE FRAUD: States take steps to cut down fake IDs

The serious poses are urged by DMVs that have installed high-tech software that compares a new license photo with others that have already been shot. When a new photo seems to match an existing one, the software sends alarms that someone may be trying to assume another driver's identity.

But there's a wrinkle in the technology: a person's grin. Face-recognition software can fail to match two photos of the same person if facial expressions differ in each photo, says Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Takeo Kanade.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Carnegie Mellon University
Dull expressions "make the comparison process more accurate," says Karen Chappell, deputy commissioner of the Virginia DMV, whose no-smile policy took effect in March.

Elaine Mullen of Great Falls, Va., bristled at the policy while renewing her license until she heard the reasoning. "It's probably safer from a national-security point of view," she says.

Arkansas, Indiana and Nevada allow slight smiles. "You just can't grin really large," Arkansas driver services Chief Tonie Shields says.

A total of 31 states do computerized matching of driver's license photos and three others are considering it, says the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Most say their software matches faces regardless of expressions. "People can smile here in Pennsylvania," state Transportation Department spokesman Craig Yetter says.

In Illinois, photo matching has stopped 6,000 people from getting fraudulent licenses since the technology was launched in 1999, says Beth Langen, the state head of Drivers Services.

Contributing: Drew FitzGerald, Marisol Bello