The IRS Will Not Use Facial Recognition Tech to ID Taxpayers

Official Internal Revenue Service Plaque outside the IRS Building in Washington D.C

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has decided to stop using the ID.me personal identification platform to verify US taxpayers’ identity. ID.me lets users prove their identity through facial recognition technology, which consequently grants them access to government or healthcare services.

Earlier, several members of Congress and Senators opposed the IRS’ decision to use facial recognition software on individuals for the tax payment process. Taxpayer privacy and data security were their key concerns. In fact, a group of lawmakers voiced their concerns in a letter to the IRS Commissioner, Charles Rettig, on Monday, February 7th.

US Government Signed a $86 Million Contract With ID.me in June 2021

The IRS planned to use ID.me for taxpayer identification this year. They intended to use the technology to identify people logging into their IRS accounts. American taxpayers would have to take and upload video selfies, which would then be matched against their official documents.

According to public documents, the Treasury Department signed a contract with ID.me back in June 2021, which is worth over $86 million.

US Lawmakers Oppose Third-Party Access to Facial Recognition Data

Below is a list of US Senators and members of Congress who have opposed the IRS’ use of facial recognition:

  1. Senator Ron Wyden,
  2. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA),
  3. Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D-CA),
  4. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA),
  5. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY).

The four members of Congress wrote the letter to Commissioner Rettig. They opposed the decision to grant a third-party access to the facial recognition data of millions of Americans.

“Any government agency operating a face recognition technology system – or contracting with a third party – creates potential risks of privacy violations and abuse. We urge the IRS to halt this plan and consult with a wide variety of stakeholders before deciding on an alternative,” the letter reads.

IRS Says It Will Develop an Authentication Mechanism Without Facial Recognition

In response to the concerns raised by the US lawmakers, the IRS said it will not go ahead with its plans with ID.me.

The IRS stated that it intends to “transition away” from using third-party facial recognition software to identify taxpayers. Furthermore, it has promised to quickly develop and operate an identification process that does not rely on facial recognition.

The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” Commissioner Rettig said.

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,” Rettig added.

Senator Wyden expressed his pleasure following the IRS’ announcement that it was revoking its plans.

The Treasury Department has made the smart decision to direct the IRS to transition away from using the controversial ID.me verification service, as I requested earlier today,” Wyden said.

In recent times, governments and companies have taken a hard position against facial recognition software. Considering this, both the US lawmakers’ opposition, as well as the IRS’ response, is not surprising.

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.