DOL expands use of facial recognition system to fight fraud

June 7, 2012
DOL image

DOL image

The Department of Licensing (DOL) is starting to use a facial recognition matching system as part of our ongoing efforts to prevent individuals from obtaining multiple driver licenses or ID cards or attempting to obtain a license or ID in the name of another Washington resident. DOL is committed to doing everything we can to protect the identities of Washington residents.

DOL has used facial recognition as part of the Enhanced Driver License program since 2008 and in our regular driver license and ID card processes during the pilot program from November 2009 through June 2011.

How does facial recognition system work?
Using your regular driver license or ID card photo, the system uses sophisticated mathematics to create a digital template of facial features that aren’t easy to alter, such as eye sockets, cheekbones and sides of the mouth.

Before a new license is issued, the system compares the template it creates to with all of the templates already in our database to determine if someone is attempting to apply for a license using a name other than their own. When potential conflicts are detected, the system flags them for review by specially trained DOL staff.

DOL’s facial recognition system is designed to be an accurate, non-obtrusive fraud detection tool. When staff investigators confirm an individual may have more than one identity in our system, DOL offers the individual an opportunity to explain. A hearing is offered before any administrative action to suspend or cancel a license or ID card is taken.

Facial recognition templates are not shared
We do not share the use of the system with law enforcement or the other agencies without a court order and do not release facial recognition system results. However, when our efforts find probable fraud or identity theft we inform appropriate partner agencies who can investigate for identity-based crime or entitlement fraud.


Recent KING 5 report about DOL facial recognition program contained a false statement

January 24, 2012

Individuals who fraudulently obtain Washington state driver licenses and ID cards present a serious risk to the safety and economic health of our residents and businesses. To fight this type of illegal activity, DOL has been working with the State Legislature for several years to obtain the authority to use a proven, non-invasive facial recognition system already in use for our Enhanced Driver License program to monitor regular driver license and ID card transactions for potential fraud.

In a story broadcast during the 11 p.m. newscast on January 23, 2012, KING 5 stated that DOL operated facial recognition software for regular driver license and ID card transactions without legal authority. This is a false statement. DOL was fully authorized to operate this system as a pilot program by our state’s 2009-2011 transportation budget. This budget, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor on May 13, 2009, contained this provision:

“(7) The department may seek federal funds to implement a driver’s license and identicard biometric matching system pilot program to verify the identity of applicants for, and holders of, drivers’ licenses and identicards. If funds are received, the department shall report any benefits or problems identified during the course of the pilot program to the transportation committees of the legislature upon the completion of the program.”

The pilot program ended when the 2009-2011 transportation budget expired. We are now working with the Legislature to make the use of this technology a permanent part of our processes.

DOL appreciates KING 5’s efforts to keep the public informed about the use of our facial recognition system, but it is important for the public to understand that DOL has not used this system in any way that was not fully authorized by law.

The use of facial recognition in our Enhanced Driver License program and in our regular driver license and ID card processes during the pilot program from November 2009 through June 2011 has demonstrated a need to have this system in place to make sure DOL is doing everything possible to protect public safety and the personal identity information of our state’s residents.

The use of facial recognition in our Enhanced Driver License program and our pilot program has identified three primary reasons individuals fraudulently obtain multiple driver licenses or ID cards. These are:

• To continue driving after a driver license suspension or revocation

• To purchase or consume alcohol as a minor

• To engage in criminal activities including identity theft

In 2011, the use of facial recognition by our agency resulted in 571 driver license suspensions and the cancellation of 560 fraudulent records and the associated cards. We also are working our way through 3,800 more cases of fraud identified by the facial recognition system during the pilot program.

Our facial recognition system also has allowed us to identify cases where individuals were maintaining multiple identities to fraudulently collect benefits through state entitlement programs.


Even after Olympics, strong demand continues for Enhanced Driver License

March 8, 2010

By Tony Sermonti

March marks a milestone in the Department of Licensing’s Enhanced Driver License/ID Card program. In a little over two years, more than 150,000 Washington residents can now say they have an enhanced license or ID card.

Even after the conclusion of the winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., more than 2,700 enhanced licenses were issued during the first week of March.

The Enhanced Driver License satisfies new federal requirements for re-entry into the U.S. at land and sea borders between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. This new requirement, part of the federal Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, took effect June 1, 2009.

Washington is one of four states that issue Enhanced Driver Licenses or ID cards. The fee is $15 to upgrade from a valid driver license.

For more info:
Get an EDL – http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/edlsteps.html
Federal Travel Requirements – http://www.getyouhome.gov/html/lang_eng/eng_edl.html


Enhanced licenses and IDs good as gold at border

February 16, 2010

Blaine border crossingBy Brad Benfield

The Olympics are here and staff at DOL are excited to see our successful Enhanced Driver License and ID Card program fulfill its promise as a faster, easier and less expensive alternative to a U.S. Passport for Washington residents visiting the Winter Games.

Demand for the EDL has been very strong over the past few months. As the Games approached, DOL was issuing more than 2,500 of the cards every week. Today, 140,000 Washington residents carry enhanced driver licenses or ID cards.

It’s very satisfying to be living through the moments Governor Gregoire envisioned several years ago when she met with British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell. They discussed common concerns about promoting trade and tourism and doing everything they could to keep traffic flowing smoothly at our shared border during the Olympics this month and the upcoming Vancouver B.C. Paralympic Winter Games in March.

But the Enhanced Driver License and ID Card program isn’t over. After all of the Olympic and Paralympic events are done, the medals all have been awarded and the athletes all have gone home, enhanced driver licenses and ID cards will continue to serve Washington residents traveling by land and sea to Canada, Mexico and other popular travel destinations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, our model has been adopted by many other states and Canadian provinces now issuing enhanced licenses and ID cards of their own.


New pre-screening times for EDL applicants

July 17, 2009

(Updated July 20 at 10:36am, PST)

DOL is adapting to surges in demand for Enhanced Driver Licenses, and demand remains high after the June 1 WHTI deadline.  So far, nearly 80-thousand Washingtonians are enjoying the convenience EDL offers to land and sea border travelers.

To help get more customers served, the busiest DOL offices that issue Enhanced Driver Licenses have been pre-screening EDL applicants waiting outside beginning at 7:15 am. The are 9 offices that issue EDL’s that are conducting pre-screening activities prior to the office opening. They are Kennewick, Lacey, Mt Vernon, Parkland, Renton, Seattle West, Smokey Point, Spokane, Wenatchee. Pre-screening times vary from office to office, see specific start times below.

Outside prescreening begins at 8 am in:

  • Wenatchee
  • Spokane
  • Parkland

Outside prescreening begins at 7:45 am in:

  • Smokey Point
  • Mt Vernon
  • Kennewick

Outside prescreening begins at 7:15 in:

  • West Seattle
  • Renton
  • Lacey

There is no early prescreening in North Vancouver because volumes there remain reasonable.

EDLs remain available by appointment only in Bothell, Seattle Downtown, Port Angeles, and Bellingham (Bellingham will accept walk in EDL applicants beginning July 28, 2009).

As a reminder: You must bring proof of identity, U.S. citizenship, and WA residency to apply for EDL. Please visit dol.wa.gov for a list of acceptable documents, and remember to BRING ORIGINALS.  No EDL applications will be accepted after 2pm on weekdays or noon on Saturdays.

Summer is typically the busiest time of year in Licensing Service Offices, so come early and come prepared.  Also, you can do many DOL services online, so log onto dol.wa.gov to see if you can skip the trip!


ADVISORY: Increased Demand for Enhanced Driver License

July 6, 2009

 

Customers at several DOL offices are experiencing longer than usual wait-times since new rules affecting international travel were implemented on June 1, 2009. Those rules are part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (“WHTI”). Many people in Washington state are responding to the new rules by applying for the convenient Enhanced Driver License. The “EDL” is also a cost-friendly alternative to a passport.

This video aims to assist Washingtonians by providing useful information that can help make obtaining an EDL as smooth as possible. Thank you for your interest. And happy traveling!


The Enhanced Driver License: A Dream Realized

July 1, 2009

VIDEO

Perhaps you already know that Washington was the first state in the nation to offer an Enhanced Driver License or “EDL.” This video reveals the uphill and determined battle that state, federal and private partners overcame in their quest to make the EDL dream come true. All involved were well-aware of the looming June 2009 implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

This video features interviews with more than a dozen people, including two travelers we found at the Blaine, Washington border crossing; each shared why he is happy to have an EDL. Maybe the EDL is a good idea for you, too.

Remember, the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver are fast-approaching!


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