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By Lee J. Nelson
Last year, Minnesota became the most recent state to unveil a driver's license that contains embedded visible and covert features to thwart identity thieves. Most noticeable is a floating image that appears to rise and sink as the card is tilted. Among the overt changes is a micro-printed background, fine lines across the photo and the state seal that can only be seen in ultraviolet light. Details of some stealthy features, like digital watermarking, are known only to certain law enforcement and state agencies in support of homeland security efforts.
Others using identity verification technology are Connecticut's Department of Motor Vehicles, the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles, Georgia's Department of Motor Vehicles, Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration, Mississippi's Motor Vehicle Commission and Wisconsin's Division of Motor Vehicles.
These actions come just seven years after West Virginia became the first state to implement advanced biometric technology to reduce driver's license forgeries and counterfeits. In that pre-9/11 era, West Virginia implemented leading-edge facial recognition technology as a security measure, according to a story in Advanced Imaging, "Polaroid & Queb?c Vision Start-Up Commercialize Robust Face Recognition" (Feb. 1998, pp. 72-73). Everyone applying for a West Virginia operator's license had a digital image taken and stored in a central repository. When an applicant tried to renew or obtain a duplicate, a second picture was taken, analyzed and compared against the previous image. West Virginia's digitized driver's license, by today's standards, would be acknowledged not only for its anti-fraud benefit but also as a screening and identity theft deterrent instrument.
RECENT ACTIONS TAKEN BY SEVERAL STATES
In 2003, faced with hundreds of people trying to acquire a phony driver's license, Colorado augmented its identification process. Now, besides being photographed, all applicants are fingerprinted. The Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles no longer produces licenses on the spot. If the application is approved, the license arrives by mail in about one week.