New York DMV's crackdown
New York DMV's facial recognition tech flagged 21,000 identity theft casesSteffi Loos/Getty Images

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles' facial recognition technology has flagged a whopping 21,000 cases of fraud in the state.

According to the Governor of New York, Andrew M Cuomo, the cutting-edge technology has led to the investigation of more than 21,000 cases related to identity theft or fraud. The number is big and comes after a major technology update the department introduced in January 2016.

The investigators doubled the number of measurement points mapped into each driver's photograph to leverage the system's ability to match a picture with those already on their database (16 million photos). As a result, they used the database, which is fed with 8,000 photos daily, to identify as many as 7,000 cases in the last 18 months alone.

Overall, the investigations conducted - with the help of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies - after using this tech has led to the arrest of over 4,000 people, with about 16,000 facing some sort of non-criminal administrative action.

"The use of this facial recognition technology has allowed law enforcement to crack down on fraud, identity theft, and other offenses—taking criminals and dangerous drivers off our streets and increasing the safety of New York's roadways," Cuomo said in a statement. "We will continue to do everything we can to hold fraudsters accountable and protect the safety and security of all New Yorkers."

The DMV's facial recognition system also allows for overlaying images, inverting colours, and converting images to black and white to identify features of a particular face. Meaning, even if facial features, hair styles, and glasses change over time, the system won't fail while matching an image.

Cuomo's office also noted that around 50% of drivers identified with multiple licences obtained their second licence after their first one was revoked or suspended. In last three months, more than 30 people have been charged on account of multiple offences - all in connection with identity theft or fraud. The officials expect the numbers to increase in the coming years.