No Smiling Allowed

I had the great pleasure of spending the morning at the DMV. I stood in line despite arriving on-time for an appointment, waited for number F012 to flash on a screen with other anxious people, paid $31 for a new license, waited in another line for 25 minutes to have my photo taken and then BOOM, my happiness was stolen. “No smiling,” said the woman at the photo booth. “Are you serious?!” I asked, trying not to sound rude. “No smiling. It’s Homeland Security. They don’t want any smiling on any IDs.” Well, you try not smiling when someone tells you not to smile. It’s hard! It’s like trying not to spit all over your monitor the first time you discover this.

The no-fun-allowed rule is a month old in California and according to Homeland Security, it will keep us “safe” by allowing our ID photos to work with facial recognition technology. The technology is so sophisticated that is requires “neutral expressions” to identify humans in photos; smile = fail. Hence, the no smile rule.

So what is a not smile? The national guide to ID photos is not particularly helpful. I see smiling people here. Can you turn up one corner of your mouth or show a little teeth?

Ever the optimist, I’m choosing to see this as another reason to enjoy biking. And if bicycle license plates or cyclist licenses ever become a reality, I’ll fight for the right to grin. Screw technology! I’m happy!

Thank you Homeland Security. Now we can all feel safe in the “neutral” position.

License example
Is this the future of CA driver’s licenses?!


  1. Hudin says:

    Now, if you actually get your new license in 4-6 weeks, I’ll be amazed. I renewed mine last November and am stay “waiting” for them to send me a license that has the actual expiration date of 2016 as opposed 2011. Yes, I have a brand new, already-expired license which has now been reissued twice with the same problem. Fun stuff!

  2. Hal O'Brien says:

    “The technology is so sophisticated that is requires “neutral expressions” to identify humans in photos; smile = fail.”

    Ummmmm… Perhaps I’m missing something here, but wouldn’t that mean if one smiles all the time while under the security cameras, the software won’t work?

    Talk about failing in a brittle way…

  3. Brian says:

    There’s a lesson here. If you ever get in trouble with Homeland Security, smile everywhere you go.

  4. Cheesecake says:

    Its kind of like the giggle loop!

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