Look miserable to help the war on terrorism
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Daily Telegraph - 06/08/2004:
Holidaymakers and other overseas travellers were ordered yesterday to play their part in the war on terrorism - by looking miserable on their passport photographs.
Under new security measures all mugshots must in future "show the full face, with a neutral expression and the mouth closed".
The advice is being sent to all applicants before the introduction next year of "ePassports", which make it harder for terrorists and criminals to get hold of fake passports.
The facial image on the photograph will be incorporated in a chip, which will be read by border control equipment. But the high-tech machines need to match key points on the face - a biometric - and this only works if the lips are closed.
The UK Passport Service (UKPS) said cheery types who flash a full set of teeth will have their applications rejected, though a modest grin may be allowed.
"It's about having a closed mouth," said a spokesman. "An open-mouthed smile will throw the scanner off."
Eyes must be open and clearly visible, with no sunglasses or heavily-tinted glasses and no hair flopping down the face. There should be no reflection on spectacles and the frames should not cover the eyes. Head coverings will only be allowed for religious reasons.
Photo booth companies, which supply most of the pictures for passports, have been required to update their equipment to ensure they are acceptable. Existing passports are not affected but the new rules will have to be followed when they are renewed.
Bernard Herdan, the chief executive of UKPS, said: "These new guidelines are an important step in the development of the new biometric ePassport and use of facial recognition technology that will be introduced in 2005 as part of the fight against fraud and terrorism."
Most people already think they look miserable enough on their passports. There is an old joke that if you look anything like your photograph then you need the holiday.
A survey of 5,000 Europeans last year suggested the British were among the most embarrassed by passport photos. It found that a fifth of Britons were so uncomfortable with their images that they hid them from their families.