Feb 2, 2006

Should I Photoshop my passport picture?

Source: The Guardian
Written by Charles Arther

No, even if you’re a wizard at image editing. The Home Office is very firm that even though you might think it’s a great idea to take your new passport photo with a digital camera, and then remove a few lines and wrinkles, you’ll create all sorts of problems for yourself in the future with biometric systems.

But how would the system know an image had been retouched, since well-tweaked pixels don’t leave smudges? “The biometrics in the passport will be checked against you. If you don’t look like your photo, then it won’t be much good,” explains a Home Office spokesman.

From August, all new British passports will be “e-passports” with embedded biometric data, based on facial characteristics such as the distances between the eyes, nose, mouth and ears. If you monkey around with them, say by digitally shaving off some avoirdupois gained over Christmas before you posed for your picture, you might also alter those ratios – and make it seem like you have faked your own passport.

The advent of digital cameras and particularly of home printers has caused a number of headaches for the UK Passport Service, which this year will process 7m new passports – second only to the US, which, with five times the population, will issue 8m. In all, 80% of UK citizens hold passports, compared to 24% in the mid-1980s. But the boom in travel plus the boom in home photoprinting has led to many more grainy pictures. When scanned into the Home Office system, these produce insufficient detail for the expected biometric tests.

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