As I’ve written about before, Enhanced Drivers Licenses (EDLs) are coming to British Columbia, as well as many other provinces around the country (I have a wiki page set up to collate information on EDLs). It seems that, at the same time the BC is rolling out EDLs, they are updating their ‘regular’ licenses.
The Canadian Press is reporting that these new licenses will be available in March, and include:
holographic overlays and laser-engraving or raised elements such as the cardholder’s image and signature…The B.C. government said the cards will incorporate technology that analyzes characteristics that do not change, such as the size and location of cheekbones and the distance between the eyes. This “facial recognition technology … will enable ICBC to compare a cardholder’s image with their existing image on file and with the corporation’s entire database of millions of images.” (Source)
This, in part, resolves a confusion over how the government might collect enough images for the facial recognition built into EDL applications to work effectively – in order to ‘catch’ people who are applying for multiple licenses it will be incredibly helpful to streamline facial capture across all licensing. This will both enable for a wider collection of images to evaluate EDL applicants against, and mean that economies of scale can be met at particular licensing locations.
Of course, in the report over the success of Phase 1 (summarized here), we found that every time that the system has identified a duplicate applicant based on facial recognition that it incorrectly identified the duplicate; every ‘flag’ has actually been an error. Further, as I understand it the facial technologies compress the face to a 2D image, which substantially reduces the accuracy of detecting duplicates reliably.
For privacy advocates, the integration of facial recognition at the receipt of licenses means that the state can potentially create a massive facial database that could subsequently be used for non-driver’s license purposes (e.g. running a captured image of a criminal through the standardized database). Further, it speaks to the likelihood of ‘function creep’, as the technologies used alongside the EDLs are incorporated into ‘standard’ licensing procedures.