Delaware to Use Facial Recognition in Issuing Drivers' Licenses

Applicants for licenses and identification cards will start getting personal attention.

The Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of implementing more secure drivers' licenses and identification cards as well as a more secure system for the creation and issuance of the cards. The new cards will incorporate linked and layered security features to prevent counterfeiting, and the card issuing process will require biometric log-in for employees who enroll residents in the system.

The biggest change residents who apply for new licenses or ID cards may see in the process is that their picture is taken at the beginning of the process instead of near the end. Also, a DMV employee will stay with the applicant through the whole process. The DMV acknowledged that this could increase wait times initially, but said the measure is necessary in order to comply with federal requirements for secure credentials.

Applicants for licenses and ID cards will need to provide source documents (a birth certificate, passport or immigration documents) to establish their identity, social security information and proof of residence. Once an applicant has obtained a new secure license or ID, he or she will not be required to produce the source documents for renewal.

Delaware residents who already have a license or ID card may opt not to apply for a secure credential, but their existing card will not be valid for such purposes as entering federal buildings or boarding an airplane, the DMV said.

In addition to new security features incorporated into the new cards, the state is also upgrading the issuing process. For example, after an applicant's photo is taken at the beginning of the process, it is checked against the DMV's entire photo database to ensure the applicant doesn't have a license or ID card in another name or isn't trying to commit identity theft.

A recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office found gaps in the security of the State Department's passport issuance process. In a series of tests, GAO employees applied for and received passports using fraudulent foundation documents.

The Delaware DMV accepted a proposal from L-1 Identity Solutions in response to a competitive sealed proposal requesting bids for a system that would include the capability to verify the applicants identity using facial recognition technology; adopt a secure card delivery process that limited and controlled access to equipment, materials, process and information; establish security procedures, audits and technology and provides tools to aid law enforcement in identifying legitimate licenses and ID cards.

The new system will provide complete integration with the document verification system currently used to verify source documents presented to the DMV as well as the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) which is used to verify an applicant's legal presence in the United States.

Drivers' licenses could begin being issued using the new process by November 1, 2009.