Passport shenanigans

c: | f: /

Help! The government can’t locate me in a photo so I won’t be able to travel anywhere until they do.

I applied for a new passport recently as my old one’s expiring soon. You can upload your own photo now if you do it online, which is way better than faffing about in a photo booth and cutting them up to send off.

So I spent some of an afternoon lining myself up against a plain background and taking a series of digital shots until I found one that matched the requirements of having a neutral background, no shadows, no highlights, no headgear, mouth closed, no smile, etc etc.

I uploaded the photo and there’s an automated checker that gives you feedback on the quality of your photo compared to the checklist. It said:

  1. Your mouth may be open.
  2. We can’t find your head.

Seriously. If it can’t find my head, how did it know my mouth is open (even when it isn’t)? Duh.

I did a quick physical exam to verify my head was actually attached to my shoulders. Looked good in the photo too. A nice clean oval. My mouth is a horizontal line, lips together, so I just checked the box that said Use this photo anyway.

Adding insult to injury, the application wizard then asked me to supply a reason why I wanted to use this photograph. I had to really bite my digital tongue not to be flippant, but went with the relatively civil:

“Because my mouth is clearly not open even though the automated checker said it was.”

Let’s just hope that a human actually looks at my application or I’m stuffed if it’s based on the shitty algorithmic software they employ on the website.

Recall this is the same government that want to roll out facial recognition everywhere. If they struggle to find someone’s head in a still shot, I pity the system that tries to match anyone based on a moving one.

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