Ga. steers toward secure license

American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators

Georgia officials, seeking to strengthen the security of the state's driver's

licenses, have awarded a six-year, $20 million contract to Viisage Technology


The state will move from issuing licenses instantly or over-the-counter

to issuing licenses by mail from a central production process by July 1,

2003, said Iftikhar Ahmad, senior vice president and general manager of

the company's secure identification business unit.

"This new program will give us the capacity to add the technology when

we're ready to add it," said Susan Sports, spokeswoman for Georgia's Department

of Motor Vehicle Safety, adding that Viisage must develop a detailed plan

for examination and approval by the state legislature. She said current

licenses already include a basic biometric identifier — prints of a person's

index fingers.

The new license also will incorporate some biometric feature, which

is yet to be determined, said Ahmad, who guessed the state might continue

with storing the index fingerprint identifiers.

The state, which issued more than 2.8 million driver's licenses last

year, awarded the contract to Viisage after a competitive bidding process.

The company will provide the software and hardware, but Ahmad said Georgia

would still own the data. During the next two to three months, the company,

which is the prime contractor, will develop a basic plan, defining specifications

and incorporating various capabilities and business rules required by the

state, Ahmad said.

Once that's done, state officials will review it and their feedback

will be incorporated into the plan, he said. Littleton, Mass.-based Viisage

has created similar driver's license systems for about 15 other states,

as well as ID cards for several state welfare programs and correctional


By migrating to a central card production solution, Ahmad said it gives

the state a tighter control over the documents, which will include the laminate

material from 3M Co. that is being used on driver's licenses in New York.

"So if you alter the document, you have to peel [the laminate] off, but

if you peel it off, it basically destroys the document and the document

is useless."

Viisage also is partnering with Tacoma, Wash.-based Sagem Morpho Inc.

to create a biometric feature that enables rapid searches using the Georgia

motor vehicle department's fingerprint database.

While drivers are waiting for their permanent licenses, they will be

issued temporary paper licenses that will be laden with chemical and other

security features, he said. For example, if it's photocopied, the copy would

say "void" and if any type of chemical or bleach is applied to it, the document

would be destroyed, he said.

Ahmad said Georgia would be among the leaders of state governments in

issuing secure driver's licenses.

"It's one of the top states I would say," he said. "They have a vision

and they're pretty much moving toward that vision and making the document

very secure and very tamper-resistant. They're addressing the security level

at the document level and associating that document with the right person."

Jason King, a spokesman for the American Association of Motor Vehicle

Administrators - an organization that is leading a nationwide drive to improve

the security of driver's licenses - said that fewer than 10 jurisdictions

are using biometrics on their driver's licenses.

"But I can also tell you is that the association is not at the point

today to recommend any specific form of biometrics," he said. "We're still

taking a look at all the available technologies and want to take a careful

approach so that we choose the best type of verification technology for

our business purposes, which is driver licensing."


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