Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smiles outlawed in Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles has declared smiling verboten when sitting for your driver's license photo. I am not making this up.
As part of the DMV's effort to develop super-secure driver's licenses and foolproof identification cards, the agency has issued a smile ban, directing customers to adopt a "neutral expression" in their portraits, thereby extinguishing whatever happiness comes with finally hearing one's number called.

And Virginia is not alone, nor first, in forbidding smiles at the DMV. Indiana disallowed smiles - as well as hats, scarves, spectacles, and certain hair styles - last year when it joined about 20 other states that use facial recognition software "to detect fraud in drivers' licenses." It seems Big Brother's machines have trouble distinguishing your smiling face from someone else's, but do a better job if you're deadpan.

Ah, the land of liberty!

The founding fathers held that among the inalienable rights bestowed on us all is the "pursuit of happiness" - but in today's paranoid society, there's no recognition of an inalienable right to show happiness.