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It's Not Enough to Swear That It's Really You on That Driver's License

by Keith Gatling | 9 months ago

Last year, as I was sitting at my little table, waiting for people to come see me for Drop-In Tech Time, a guy came out if the Carman Room, and asked a question that was not the kind of tech question I was expecting.

He wanted to know why it was that when he went to the liquor store, some places merely looked at his ID while others took his license and ran it through a scanner before giving it back to him. What were they scanning for, and what were they doing with the data?

I didn’t know at the time, but I wish I’d gotten his name, because now I have an answer that I think will satisfy him. And one that should satisfy you too.

It’s all about verifying real licenses and catching fakes. As you know, people have gotten very good at creating fake IDs over the past few years. Especially with digital tools like Photoshop. In fact, a few years ago there was actually an app that let you create fake IDs for any state...they said it was “for entertainment purposes only.” Gotta love the free enterprise system. Because of this catching the fakes was very challenging.

Enter a thing called PDF417. It’s the barcode system on the back of your license that contains the same information on the front. The scanners that some stores are using read this code, and the person behind the counter verifies it against what’s on the front. If they don’t match, you’ve got a problem. And no matter how good you are at doctoring the front of your license, I’m betting that you’re not good enough to hack the barcode.

So what do you do if you want a fake ID now?

Well, the easiest thing is to wait until you’re 21.