Smile…You’re Being Scanned

I recently renewed my passport, which required an updated photo. I went to my local Walgreens to take care of this and complete my renewal application as quickly as possible.

I placed my toes on the line, looked into the camera, and put on my best smile. The technician scowled. “You’re not supposed to smile for passport photos.”

I scowled back. “Why?” Ten years ago I smiled; the picture wasn’t too bad.

“Facial recognition software doesn’t work as well when you smile.”

At this point I discovered that when someone is about to take your picture and says, “Don’t smile,” it’s almost impossible to keep a straight face.

There was more scowling as she waited for me to rid my face of any hint of levity. Once I looked sufficiently dour, she snapped my picture.

passport photoWhen I picked up the photo a few minutes later, the results horrified me. Even though I never had one, it looked like a mug shot. However, since I don’t like to travel, that’s probably a reasonable representation of how I look when I’m at the airport. So the facial recognition software should have no problem matching me.

And for those who want to avoid having airport security recognize them, just smile.

[This is from the February 2013 issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

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