Ga. steers toward secure license
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Nov 19, 2002
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
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
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."