Minnesota launches biometric driver's license

Published 10 January 2006

The State of A Thousand Lakes (our view: thirty lakes and 970 puddles) is moving to incorporate biometric information into the state driver’s license

The state of Minnesota soon will start using biometric face scans to prevent would-be crooks — but also underage wannabe smokers and drinkers — from getting fake driver’s licenses from the state. Governor Tim Pawlenty late last week announced plans to add biometric facial recognition technology to driver’s licenses as part of a broader effort to protect consumers from identity theft and unauthorized use of personal data. That effort will include stiffer criminal penalties for hackers and others who abuse access to personal data on computers. The new technology would match an individual’s driver’s license photo with images in the state’s database. Here is how the governor’s office described it: “Facial recognition technology converts an image into a mathematical computer algorithm as a basis for a positive match. It uses the structure of a person’s face — such as width between the eyes, forehead depth and nose length — to assign mathematical points of reference creating a unique data file.”

Thirteen other states already use the technology, and it has proved “highly accurate.” No new photos will be needed to develop the state’s face-scan file. State workers will scan photos on current driver’s licenses to create the new file. The new technology will cost about $1 to $2 per driver’s license. Pawlenty said an $800,000 federal grant will offset these costs and that he will ask the 2006 Legislature to pay the rest.

-read more in this report