Late last year, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it would implement facial recognition technology to authenticate the identity of people creating new IRS accounts online. The company engaged to provide the authentication service is IDme, which positions itself an identity verification company, not a biometrics company.
The announcement immediately triggered strong opposition to the use of facial recognition and backlash from groups that advocate for citizen privacy. As a result, the IRS announced on February 7 that it will transition away from using facial recognition to help authenticate identity.
The IRS and IDme respond and regroup
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “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.”
On February 8 ID.me announced a new option to verify identity without using automated facial recognition and says it will make this available to all public sector government partners. ID.me Founder and CEO, Blake Hall, explained, “We have listened to the feedback about facial recognition and are making this important change, adding an option for users to verify directly with a human agent to ensure consumers have even more choice and control over their personal data,” In recent weeks, Hall says, IDme has modified its process so government agencies can “empower people to choose to verify their identity with an expert human agent without going through a selfie check.” All current ID.me users will be able to delete their selfie or photo at account beginning on March 1.
During the transition, the IRS will develop and bring online the additional authentication process that do not involve facial recognition. The IRS will also continue to work with its cross-government partners to develop authentication methods that protect taxpayer data and ensure broad access to online tools. The transition will occur over the coming weeks to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season.
Internal Revenue Service
Electronic Frontier Foundation
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