New Jersey says smiling on drivers licenses throws off new facial recognition software

AOL Original Content Posted: Sep 21, 2012
New Jerseyans have a lot to smile about. The Giants, who play in Secaucus, are Super Bowl champs. Governor Chris Christie is a national political star, and has a 51% approval rating.But the Garden State doesn’t want you to smile–at least not on your driver’s license.
According to, New Jersey recently instituted a policy that prohibits residents from smiling in their driver’s license pics. That’s not because the state wants drivers to look mean or sad, as if they had the disappointment of the NBA Nets moving to Brooklyn on their minds.
No, it’s because smiles that are too broad and toothy can upset facial recognition software.
Of course, we are wondering why people at the Department of Motor Vehicles in any state would want to sport a big grin after waiting in the typical line to get a new license or registration.
In any case, DMVs have begun using such facial recognition software to catch driver’s license applicants trying to assume someone’s identity to create a fake ID: If a new photo matches an old one that carries a different name, a red flag goes up, and investigators step in.
The idea is that over time DMVs will create a database of faces, just like the existing fingerprint database. The idea is for law enforcement to use that database to pick out perpetrators from security camera footage after a crime has been committed.
Everyone knows New Jersey and New York are competitive with one another over sports, bridge and tunnel revenue, the size of summer tomatoes, etc. So, New York officials have been making it known that New York drivers can smile all they like at their DMV offices.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles determined that its facial recognition software uses points on a grid of a person’s face unrelated to expressions.
Say New Jerseyans to New Yorkers, “I got your smile…right here.”
AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley is a New Jersey native, born in Jersey City, and now resides in Michigan.