State Department Wants Face-Scanning Software to Make Sure Your Passport Photo isn't a Fake


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The department issued a request for information about technology that could gauge image quality.

The State Department is looking to expedite the way its staff assesses passport and visa photos, according to a new request for information

The department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, which judges applications and then issues passports and visas to U.S. citizens, has asked tech companies to submit "image quality assessment software" that could scan application photos for airbrushing, bad lighting and other signs of flaws or alteration.

The technology must be able to identify visual factors including shadows, head-width to image-width ratio, centering (the horizontal and vertical positions of the midpoint between the eyes), the subject's expression, whether the subject is wearing glasses, and also report the level of confidence the image is depicting a face, among other factors, according to the RFI. 

Tech companies responding to the RFI were asked to describe how their system detects and reports image manipulation and alteration. 

After an initial assessment, passport and visa application images are passed through a face recognition process including both humans and automated systems, the RFI said, and therefore "must be of sufficient quality to be analyzed successfully so that they can be printed on U.S. passports and visa travel documents."

The Bureau of Consular Affairs representative who oversees this program could not be reached for comment, and it's unclear whether it is meant to replace or supplement the existing assessment process.

(Image via infinity21/