IRS Abandons Plan to Use Facial Recognition on Taxpayers

Image: IRS

The IRS has decided to abandon its plan of implementing third-party facial recognition service ID.me as part of its login process for taxpayers who want to view and manage their tax records online. Comments from IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig can confirm that the agency was persuaded to kill the idea after it drew massive criticism from not only privacy advocates, but members of Congress. The IRS is working on a complementary authentication process that won’t involve facial recognition.

IRS announces transition away from use of third-party verification involving facial recognition (IRS.gov)

  • The IRS announced it will transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts. The transition will occur over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season.
  • “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.”
  • The transition announced today does not interfere with the taxpayer’s ability to file their return or pay taxes owed. During this period, the IRS will continue to accept tax filings, and it has no other impact on the current tax season. People should continue to file their taxes as they normally would.

IRS to abandon facial recognition plan after firestorm of criticism (The Washington Post)

  • The government runs a separate sign-in service, Login.gov, whose leaders told The Washington Post last week that they would not use facial recognition until a “rigorous review has given us confidence that we can do so equitably and without causing harm to vulnerable populations.”
  • IRS and Treasury officials did not respond to questions of how the change could affect the two-year, $86 million contract that Treasury signed with ID.me last summer, or what would happen with the personal or facial data that Americans have submitted to ID.me already.
  • In a letter to the IRS last week, the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee pointedly asked what would happen to taxpayers’ personal information if the IRS ended its work with the company. The group has yet to receive a response, a committee aide said.

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