Notary Bulletin

Facial Technology Is A Powerful Tool Against Identity Theft

When Thomas Parkin walked into the Brooklyn office of the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), no one batted an eye  even though he was wearing a wig and a dress and gave his dead mothers name in order to renew her drivers license. If the DMV office had facial recognition technology to compare photos, then his ruse would have been uncovered then and there. It would take federal authorities several more months to catch up with Parkin, 49, who had been impersonating his dead mother for at least six years in order to collect her Social Security and housing benefits.

Identification documents issued by states using facial recognition technology are much more secure and reliable. Notaries and others who depend on them to vet identities have a higher degree of trust that people are who their IDs say they are. The technology uses sophisticated mathematical algorithms to match photos on drivers licenses and other IDs against those in motor vehicle, police and other government databases.

There is no doubt that facial recognition systems are working. In the first six months of 2009, Indianas facial recognition system flagged 463 identity-related cases. Among them, an ex-con  who had just been paroled  was nabbed with facial recognition as he attempted to get his seventh fake ID. Nevada credits the technology with more than a dozen identity fraud-related arrests since late 2008, including a woman who had been using a faked identity card for more than 10 years and a convicted sex offender who was trying to get an ID in his brothers name.

All told, 37 states are using the technology. While critics worry about the accuracy of facial recognition systems, proponents point out that it is one of many tools being used to make IDs more secure and reliable, and has been effective in the war against identity theft and fraud.

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