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Man loses license for looking too much like another driver

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Do you have a familiar-looking face? John H. Gass does.

The Natick, Mass., resident's driver's license was temporarily revoked after his image was flagged as potentially fraudulent by state authorities' computerized antiterrorism facial recognition system.

The problem? Mr. Gass looked too much like another driver, according to the Boston Globe.

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Mr. Gass told the newspaper he was baffled when he received a notice from the Massachusetts motor vehicles registry earlier this year, informing him his license was revoked. He hadn't had so much as a traffic ticket in years.

"I was shocked," he said. "As far as I was concerned, I had done nothing wrong.''

Mr. Gass is now suing for unspecified damages for the hardship he endured over 10 days of wading through bureaucratic red tape to prove his identity.

As the Boston Globe reports, Mr. Gass isn't alone. The state's facial recognition system has flagged more than 1,000 cases for police investigation last year - and "some of those people are guilty of nothing more than looking like someone else," the newspaper says. Each of those people is required to prove their identity.

Mr. Gass's lawsuit estimates there might have been hundreds of people who have had their licenses wrongly revoked since the facial recognition system was installed in 2006.

But authorities argue that even though it's not without problems, the computerized system has helped fight identity fraud. It was also introduced as part of their efforts to prevent terrorism.

"We send out 1,500 suspension letters every day,'' registrar Rachel Kaprielian told the Boston Globe. "There are mistakes that can be made.''

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In an age when authorities everywhere are on the lookout for potential terrorism, are mistakes such as these simply par for the course?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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