DOL's Technology Thwarting ID Thieves

DOL's Technology Thwarting ID Thieves
PASCO, Wash. -- If a picture's worth a thousands words, how much is it worth if a thief steals it?

Department of Licensing spokesman Tony Sermonti explained that identity theft is "a hugely expensive crime."

To combat the ever increasing crime, the Department of Licensing started using a new tool, close to six months ago, called facial recognition technology. It's designed to unmask criminals who use a drivers license photo for any sort of fraudulent activity, such as using someone photo under a fake name.

"We're trying to protect (people's) identities, we're trying to protect their finances," Sermonti said.

How does it work? The DOL technology uses biometrics, a system where the computer automatically scans a digital photograph to compare the unique underlying structure of your face including eyes, cheek bones and the sides of your mouth.

Department of Licensing investigator Fred Bjornberg, who analyzes the pictures once they are flagged, explained that facial recognition technology "measures points on your face and then it draws a map of your face."

Based on a mathematical formula, the system compares your face to 14 million others in the DOL database to ensure that each person has their own individual drivers license photo.

Tony continued, "It's really math-based so it's not really comparing my face to yours. What's it is doing is comparing how far apart my ears are compared to yours."

If the computer finds that the facial markers match 75% or more markers of another picture, the computer flags all of the corresponding pictures. Right now, the technology flags 10 to 11 everyday. One time, Sermonti said, the technology found one woman with more than 37 different identities all sharing the same photograph.

According to that math, the DOL can flag more than 2,500 sketchy photos a year.

At that point, a license can be cancelled or the the case can be turned over to police

After six months, computers at DOL have yet to forget a face, and that's priceless.

The facial recognition technology is primarily used by DOL and then only used by law enforcement when the state turns over a case.

As with many new state programs , we wanted to find out if this cost you the taxpayer anything. We found it was paid for by a federal grant.