The Internal Revenue Service will stop using controversial facial recognition software for taxpayers trying to access tax accounts online due to privacy and security concerns.
The transition from ID.me, the third-party verification system that required taxpayers to upload video selfies to access their tax information online, will begin in the coming weeks, the IRS announced Monday. The IRS said it would add additional verification tools that don’t involve facial recognition, but didn’t specify how those would work.
The use of the software has faced bipartisan criticism from lawmakers in recent weeks due to privacy concerns as well as questions about racial biases embedded in the program.
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement Monday. -long-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”
The IRS said tax filing season, which began last month and will run through April 18 for most taxpayers, would not be hampered by the transition to using ID.me.
The decision was immediately welcomed by Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, who sent a letter to the IRS earlier Monday asking them to stop using the program.
“I understand that the transition process may take time, but I appreciate that the administration recognizes that privacy and security are not mutually exclusive and that no one should have to undergo facial recognition to access to critical government services,” Wyden said in a statement after the IRS announcement.
Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, also welcomed the change and called the IRS’ use of such software “garbage.”
“The IRS has absolutely no business requiring facial recognition software on anything – but especially not when it comes to allowing Montana taxpayers to access services,” he said. he stated in a tweet.
Several key Republican senators, including Mike Crapo, had also launched an investigation into how the IRS was using ID.me.
Last year, the IRS website began requiring taxpayers to use ID.me to access personalized information about eligibility for extended child tax credits funded by the relief program. President Joe Biden’s pandemic case, the American Rescue Plan, among other services. The agency had planned to expand the use of ID.me to all taxpayers later this year.
Research has shown that AI-based facial recognition software often makes mistakes with darker-skinned people. This identified bias in the technology has prompted activists to call on law enforcement to abandon its use altogether.
ID.me claims to have verified the identity of some 70 million people. Those numbers grew rapidly thanks to his work for 27 states processing unemployment claims during the pandemic and helping to combat fraud. Several other federal entities, including the Social Security Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, also use the technology.
But ID.me has been the subject of complaints that its software has resulted in innocent claimants being flagged for fraud. Many users also struggled with the ID.me process.
The company, which has come under fire for not being transparent about the type of facial recognition technology it uses, said last month it kept a database of user images against which it compared new selfies. ID.me relies on Amazon’s controversial technology as part of its system.
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