The state would crack down on identity theft and fraud under facial recognition legislation heard today by the Senate Transportation Committee.
Senate Bill 6150, proposed by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, would direct the state Department of Licensing (DOL) to use a facial recognition matching system for all driver’s licenses, permits and identicards. The system enables DOL to identify an applicant who is registered under one or more other identities, block the issuance of the new card, and refer the case to law enforcement for investigation.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where more and more people are creating multiple ID cards and multiple identities, and we need to reverse this trend,” Haugen said. “When DOL tried this under a pilot program, they were catching eight-to-12 fraudulent applicants daily.”
Haugen said one of her constituents told her how, after his identity was stolen, he was forced to close his business due to the debt rung up by the ID thief. As another example, Haugen said it is not uncommon for police to stop motorists with fraudulent IDs and find bags of other people’s mail inside their cars.
“We’re in an age when identity theft is a major problem for everyone — seniors, business owners, you name it,” Haugen said. “You need the assurance that no one else is using your identity, and facial recognition can identify those who try.”
The biometrics system tracks a person’s features mathematically by precisely measuring the distances between reference points such as eyes, nose, mouth and other facial features. When a new applicant is photographed, that photo is matched against a database of existing ID photos across the state. DOL staff then inspect the potential matches to confirm whether an applicant is registered another identity.
Facial recognition programs are currently used by 31 other states. In addition to preventing the issuance of IDs to fraudulent applicants, it helps deter fraud by people who use false identities to fraudulently file for benefits from state agencies such as the state Department of Health and Social Services and the state Department of Labor & Industries.
“Identity theft and fraud cost our state lots of money,” Haugen said. “Facial recognition technology gives us the ability to nip it in the bud.”