WNYT.com

Facial recognition system leads to thousands of fraud arrests

Posted at: 03/06/2013 6:07 PM
Updated at: 03/06/2013 6:26 PM
By: Dan Bazile

ALBANY -- After kicking off facial recognition technology, the Department of Motor Vehicle says the state was arresting people by the thousands for possible identity fraud. They were even a bit surprised at the number of people trying to cheat the system.

"We've arrested 2,500. We've taken 5,000 to administrative hearings," said Owen McShane from the DMV.

A lot more cases are still pending, according to McShane. Plus, he said the system flags hundreds of new possibilities everyday. At least five of them turn out to be real fraud. Many of those already arrested had multiple licenses or they were trying to get a new license after their original one was suspended.

"And 30 percent of them are using it for non DMV purposes. It could be bank fraud, credit card fraud, you name the fraud," McShane said. "Many of them have gotten away with it for an extended period of time."

That all changed with facial recognition. The software works by converting digital photos into mathematical algorithms. It uses 64 different points on your face to identify you in mathematical terms

"It takes your photo that we capture today and compares it against your old photo to make sure you are who you say you are. You're the same person," McShane said.

McShane also said it's extremely accurate with 75 to 99 percent matches, no matter how different the subject in the photos might look to the human eye.

"The technology is really evolving. It's made some significant stride over the last five years. I believe at some point you'll see it as a form of verification," he said.

New York is among 41 states that uses facial recognition technology. McShane said it not protects your identity, it also makes the highways safer by keeping bad drivers off the streets.