Smiling at VA DMV now forbidden, not just unlikely

Photo courtesy of
‘Yay Snow! (214/365) (060/365)’
courtesy of ‘kimberlyfaye’

I thought for a moment that I was reading the Onion. The Virginia DMV is in the process of banning smiling in your drivers’ license photos. Due to some face-recognition technology being implemented in DMV systems, you’ll need to adopt a “neutral expression” when your picture is taken, or the system, programmed to detect your terrorist-loving grin, will reject the photo.

So when your teenager gets her license, she’s not allowed to look happy about it. The face-recognition software works better on faces wearing the same expression.   Which is just dandy, really- technology that can’t identify a face that’s smiling is going to be used by all manner of law-enforcement agencies to identify suspects, by comparing that oh-so-high-quality DMV photo with the crisp and sharp images from ATM cameras and suchlike. Because I know that when I’m knocking over a liquor store, what I’m wearing is a “neutral expression.”

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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5 thoughts on “Smiling at VA DMV now forbidden, not just unlikely

  1. FIPS 201 calls for a neutral expression as well. Facial recognition is part of it, but if you are using your photo ID to prove your ID, what is the likelihood you are smiling? This is VA simply embracing a federal standard.

  2. I smile all the time when proving my identity- at the airline agent when I’m going on vacation, at the cop pulling me over (I have a fantastic “don’t ticket me” smile), at a restaurant or bar when I get carded… what I am definitely NOT doing is wearing a neutral expression.

  3. Now I know why I moved back to Boston. I had too many teeth to live in Virginia.

  4. Arkansas is another state that has adopted this policy but it shouldn’t matter much…we never had much to smile about back there anyway.