Why you can’t smile when you get your license in Iowa

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

DAVENPORT, Iowa-- These Iowans getting their pictures taken are today's celebrities at the Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles. And it's not the long lines that have them straight faced. It's policy.

"I think it's kind of crazy because you feel like you're a convict or something when you get your picture taken," says IDOT customer Lori Shaffnit.

Iowa DOT investigator Matt Dingbaum has seen hundreds of identity theft cases right here in the Quad Cities. New technology and the 'no smiling policy' make it easier and quicker to catch.

"The process that's in place is there because we're trying to prevent someone from taking your information and literally becoming you," says Dingbaum.

Here's how it works.

Once your picture is snapped, it's run through facial recognition technology that forms a unique template of your face.

"Superficially, a lot of things can change your face, your hair, things like that. But what doesn't change is the distance between your eyes, nose and mouth," says Dingbaum.

Investigators say things like glasses, hair in the way and smiling with your teeth change those dimensions and confuse the software into thinking you're someone else.

It's a process behind the scenes that could keep you save in a flash.