No Smiling Allowed? Passport Photos and Facial Recognition

I recently got my passport renewed and was reminded of this wonderful short film, “Validation.” There’s a twist in film you won’t expect. Get ready to smile. Just don’t smile when you get your own passport photo taken.

It actually says in the directions for a passport:

             If you are applying for a U.S. Passport, you must provide one (1) photo. Your passport photo must be:

  • With a neutral facial expression and both eyes open

Having written “Living with Enthusiasm: How the 21-Day Smile Diet Can Change Your Life,” this really got to me. Not smile? What is that all about? Don’t we have enough problems in the world without telling people not to use the most universal positive gesture on the planet?

I discovered from someone who worked in a copy shop that did passport photos that people were told not to smile because if that person was arrested, the arrest photo should match the passport. Since most people wouldn’t smile in jail, they don’t want you smiling in your passport. Really?

Turns out, it’s actually about facial recognition technology for fighting against fraud and international terrorism. When your mouth is open it can make it difficult for facial recognition technology to work effectively.

I can appreciate this and it begs a deeper question, “How do we create more positive connection in a world with so many different cultures and regulations when we’re traveling internationally and in our own neighborhoods?”

Be generous with your smiles.

Thanks for sharing!



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