WXXI Local Stories
Tue October 30, 2007
DMV Says New Technology Safer
By Karen DeWitt
Albany, New York – Governor Spitzer's Commissioner of Motor Vehicles and Homeland Security Advisor offered a demonstration of the latest anti-fraud technology that they say will help make the governor's newest driver's license plan safer than ever.
DMV Commissioner David Swarts and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Balboni say the new technology includes facial recognition software, that will match the person's driver's license photo with all others in the DMV's system, to make sure the same person does not have more than one license. Another machine scans documents, like passports and immigration cards, to detect fraud. Secretary Balboni says the new machines offer a vast improvement over the present system and will be the "most secure and most inclusive driver's licenses in the nation".
"Today, the proof is the pudding," said Balboni. He added, jokingly "I sure hope it works."
The demonstration went off without a hitch, but the DMV initially was to have demonstrated the new technology more than a week ago. A news conference was called, then cancelled, after published reports said the equipment was malfunctioning, and allowing obviously forged documents to be approved.
DMV Commissioner Swarts explained what he says actually happened. He blamed the problem on a worker who did not know that both sides of a particular document had to be scanned. He says the software has been modified, so that the operator can't proceed with any other functions until they also scan the reverse side of the document. Swarts says the problems may have been a blessing, because they pointed out flaws in the system.
"That's probably good that that happened," he said. "Because it alerted us, that as we move forward, we have to fully understand how this technology works."
He says a lose connection wire was another problem that hampered the tests.
Secretary Balboni admits the new technologies are not "failsafe", he says nothing is, but he says it's another "tool" that investigators can use to determine the validity of documents.
Commissioner Swarts admits the new technologies will not ease the concerns of opponents who don't want the state to issue driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who may not be legally in the country.
Under Governor Spitzer's revised plan, announced last Saturday, the state will issue three different kinds of licenses. One, only for U.S. citizens, will be secure enough to use to board airplanes and visit government buildings when the new federal regulations known as the Real ID law take effect next spring. A second type of enhanced license can be used instead of a passport to cross from New York into Canada. A third license, which will not require a social security number, will be issued to citizens and undocumented immigrants, and will carry a stamp that says "not for federal identification purposes".
Commissioner Swarts denies that the third tier license will be a kind of scarlet letter, as some immigrant rights groups have claimed. He says the 35% of New Yorkers who have passports may also decide that they don't need the enhanced licenses either.
"It's a choice," Swarts said. "To assume that only undocumented individuals would be using the New York state license is incorrect."
Swarts also said the state would be reversing another policy that was part of Spitzer's first plan, issued September 21st. The state had dropped the requirement that licenses from non-citizen immigrants be stamped with the words "temporary visitor". Commissioner Swarts says DMV offices will now be told to put those labels back on the licenses until the newest plan is implemented, sometime late next year.