After public outcry over the idea that taxpayers might have to snap selfies to access their IRS.gov accounts, the Internal Revenue Service reconsiders alternatives to ID.me, the controversial identity-checking system now used by states and other federal agencies. The Treasury Department and IRS are reportedly looking for alternatives to the controversial facial recognition software ID.me.
Some benefits denied, applications on hold
Last year, the IRS said that it would begin requiring Americans who file their taxes online to register with ID.me, a third-party facial recognition company. Users will be required to upload a video selfie taken using a camera or mobile device to authenticate their identity through the service. The IRS plans to launch the program this summer, The Verge reported.
Despite claims that ID.me exclusively employs one-to-one facial matching, which entails matching a user’s face with photos of the same face, CEO Blake Hall stated that the company uses technology that compares faces against a more extensive database. Politicians, the American Civil Liberties Union, and digital rights supporters have previously expressed their displeasure with the IRS’ use of the software.
The United States government currently uses ID.me to authenticate people’s identities for Social Security, state payments, and Veterans Affairs. However, due to possible software flaws, several users who utilized ID.me to verify their state benefits reported having their benefits denied or their applications placed on hold in 2021.
The lawmakers and civil-liberties organizations criticized the approach as intrusive. The IRS has made a poor decision.
Representative Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, claimed that it would further erode Americans’ privacy. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, expressed his displeasure with the development. A Treasury spokesperson said in a statement that ID.me accounts would not be required to file tax returns and that the agency was attempting to strike a balance between ease of access and protecting the agency from criminals.
According to CBS News, the IRS has been unable to invest in cutting-edge technology due to a lack of funding for IT modernization. Instead, the IRS now relies on third-party service providers to verify the identity of people attempting to gain unauthorized access to taxpayer accounts. ID.me, for example, is compliant with the National Institute of Security Technology standards and is used by several government institutions, according to the spokeswoman.
According to civil rights organizations, face recognition is less accurate for persons with darker skin tones than for those with lighter skin tones. For example, face-matching technology resulted in the false arrest of a guy for shoplifting and the mismatching of members of Congress with a mugshot database.