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IRS Will No Longer Use Controversial Facial Recognition Software To Verify Online Accounts

The IRS stated Monday that taxpayers will no longer be required to utilize third-party face recognition software to validate their online accounts. Reports cnbc.com

Taxpayers would’ve had to confirm their online profiles via third-party software firm ID.me starting this summer by presenting a legal document with a picture, such as a driving license, state ID, or passport, and attempting to take a video clip with their computer or smartphone, according to the agency.

While creating an account was not required to submit a tax return, pay a tax bill, it was needed to access other details such as tax records, apply for payment plans, or use the Child Tax Credit portal.

Privacy experts were alarmed by the proposal, questioning why the government needed to cooperate with an outside corporation to acquire biometric data.

Jeramie Scott, senior counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “We do not know how this data could be used in the future.” “You’re handing over authority to a firm that may not be as motivated to secure your data as you are.”

Some Concerns

Facial recognition software has also been demonstrated to contain bias and mistakes that disproportionately affect persons of race, according to Scott.

According to Rick Song, CEO of Persona, a biometric identification startup, if the IRS or any government agency were to deploy facial recognition software, this should be on an opt-in premise, similar to two-factor authentication. (Other institutions and departments, including the Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs, and several state governments, use ID.me to validate online accounts.)

“Forcing my data to be entrusted with, effectively, a corporation to gain access to a public service is weird,” Song says. “If I’m going to give the government my data, I’d rather give it to them directly than through an intermediary.”

There are also issues of accessibility: not everybody has access to smartphones or computers with a camera, both of which are required to create and log in to log inS profile.

Legislators have also reacted negatively to the move. A group of Republican senators wrote to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig last week, requesting that he “immediately halt any programs that collect, process, or retain face recognition or some other types of biometric information of American taxpayers.”

The agency stated that the shift away from ID.me must take place within the next several weeks to avoid any interruptions during tax season. It plans to provide an “alternative authentication mechanism that does not rely on facial recognition.”

In a press statement, Rettig said, “The IRS considers taxpayer security and privacy seriously, and we recognize the issues that have been raised.” “Everyone should feel secure about how their private details are protected, and we’re working on short-term alternatives to facial recognition right now.”


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