Photo ID Fun

Photo ID's are a funny thing. If you observe how casually the typical security gatekeeper regards them you might conclude that they were pointless. The purpose of checking an ID is to verify that a person has access to a physical location and the photo makes the connection between the official printed credentials and the person carrying them. But due to the repetitive nature of the job, checking photo ID's often devolves into verifying that the face on the plastic matches the face standing in front of you.

The real value of photo ID's is in forensics, checking pictures against camera footage, spot checking ID's as part of an audit, etc. Anytime there is a reason for greater scrutiny of the security process, having photographs of faces is a huge advantage.

Because of this, I tend not to take the usual photo ID's all that seriously. If the shit hits the fan and someone needs to match up my face to an official photo record of me as an authorized person, the official photo doesn't need to be perfect. So I like to make silly faces for photo ID's.

Here's my photo ID from one of my first jobs as a tech support rep at Infinet:


I even wore a special shirt for the occasion!


Here's a set of goofy pics I've taken for access to 111 8th Ave (the old Port Authority building) in NYC, probably the city's largest telco hotel:



And here's what my photo ID looked like for Digital Realty Trust (DRT) when they were a datacenter provider for Logicworks:



A great story about that DRT one: Once, when my parents were visiting, I took them on a tour of Logicworks' datacenter facilities (they are computer professionals too, retired) and when we got to the front desk and I provided my ID the staffer yelled out "Hey! You're that guy!" I had no idea what he was talking about until he turned his screen around and we could see my face taking up half his screen. Apparently the security software that DRT used would show a huge catalog of faces in the interface when a user was searching for someone, so my silly face became famous among their operations staff. Since I didn't visit the datacenter often he was delighted to get a chance to meet the crazy guy whose face always jumped out of the photo lineup.

In Spring of 2008 Logicworks moved into their office at 155 6th Ave in Soho, NYC. The building was run by Trinity Real Estate, one of the largest landowners in the city, and the corporation responsible for managing the land granted to Trinity Church by Queen Anne in 1705. They were a good landlord, but very picky about rules and regulations. When it came time to get building ID's they had very specific rules about the photographs we could submit. No open-mouth smiles, the face couldn't be too big or too small in the frame, white background, etc.

I wasn't having this. I assumed that their security office had provided the rules just to maintain some order in their photo catalog, so I tried to submit my usual goofy smile. It was rejected! Annoyed, I decided to submit a few more.


Rejected. (I can't blame them, it is a pretty poor photoshop)



Rejected again. (another terrible photoshop)


By this point weeks had passed and it was getting uncomfortable with the front desk staff. They kept asking why I didn't have an ID and I just kept stalling, saying that it must be delayed by their security office. I decided that I needed to get legit with my ID but I hated the idea of the usual placid grin so I submitted a picture with my face looking as dumb as I possibly can, yet still plausible enough to be my actual face that they couldn't reject it.


Accepted!