Technology

IRS to drop facial recognition verification service

IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Greg Nash

The Treasury Department is moving away from the controversial verification software ID.me amid concern over the company’s use of facial recognition technology.

The IRS had announced last year that it would start requiring people who file taxes online to register with ID.me, which would verify the identity of filers with a video selfie.

The program was supposed to be rolled out this summer for all IRS services, including making online payments and accessing tax credits.

Critics have been sounding the alarm over ID.me’s use, warning that giving a private company access to that much biometric information is inherently risky and pointing out that many facial recognition systems have deep racial and gender biases.

The latter concern has been amplified since CEO Blake Hall admitted the company uses technology that matches faces against a larger database rather than just other images of the same face.

Several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have spoken out about the issue, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who revealed the Treasury Department’s plans to drop ID.me.

“The Treasury Department has made the smart decision to direct the IRS to transition away from using the controversial ID.me verification service, as I requested earlier today,” Wyden said in a statement Monday. “I understand the transition process may take time, but I appreciate that the administration recognizes that privacy and security are not mutually exclusive and no one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access critical government services.”

Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.) and Anna Eshoo (Calif.) sent a letter earlier Monday to the IRS demanding that the agency commit to not using any facial recognition tech for verification.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee sent a letter to the IRS last week expressing concern about the ID.me partnership and demanding more information. 

An ID.me spokesperson directed queries to the IRS.

In a statement on the IRS website, commissioner Chuck Rettig said that the agency understands “the concerns that have been raised” about ID.me.

“Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition,” he added.

Updated at 4:04 p.m.

Tags Anna Eshoo Biometrics facial recognition ID.me IRS Pramila Jayapal Ron Wyden Ted Lieu Yvette Clarke
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