Why is smiling forbidden in passport photos?

People like to see themselves smiling or laughing in their photographs. However, the photos we take for various identity cards are another matter, where we need to take in as much air as possible. Especially, the authorities in many countries now forbid anyone from smiling on their passport photos. Countries like the U.S. and Canada have already passed laws adhering to the policy and more nations are jumping on the bandwagon. It is not just smiling, but frowning, glaring and anything that brings a significant change in our facial features are virtually banned from the passport photos.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN agency concerned with air transport has recommended not to laugh in the passport photos. The applicants are supposed to hold a neutral expression. A hint of smile is alright, as long as it doesn’t deviate the facial structure too much. A toothy grin is strictly forbidden.
Many people are vexed over these restrictions, which were imposed to make it easy to implement the security measures. The new regulation was started to put in place at the turn of 21st century with the introduction of biometric system. All the major airports in the world use advanced biometric devices to scan the photos. The scanning software compares your face against a database of obtained photos. The biometric scan works identifying various points on your face and comparing them. Hence, the factors such as the shape of our eyes, nose and the distance between eyes play important roles in the process.
Any expression that alters our facial features significantly can trouble the system in identification process. A smile, frown or anything can change the configuration of our eyes and it will reflect in the biometric details. When the position of our face changes, the biometric points shift as well, making the process difficult. So the system has it easy when we sport a calm and neutral look.
The restrictions are not just limited to our expressions but other features as well. You are not allowed to have hair hanging before your eyes. You can’t cover your hair unless it concerns religious practices. The primary facial features should not be hidden from view. Glasses are fine, as long as they are in correct angle and your eyes are showing clearly.
The increasing terror attacks and consequent paranoia have made the authorities leave no stone unturned in imposing security measures. Although many see the reason behind this, it hasn’t prevented them from asking why they look like some escaped convicts in the passport photos.
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