With tax season upon us, the IRS is pushing individuals to submit to facial recognition in exchange for being able to complete a range of basic tax-related activities online. The IRS has retained a private firm--ID.me The IRS is not the only government agency working with ID.me. The company claims to serve "27 states, multiple federal agencies, and over 500 name brand retailers." This is alarming for several reasons.
The Treasury Department is reconsidering the Internal Revenue Service's use of ID.me for access to its website, according to Bloomberg. A department official said the agencies are exploring alternatives to the controversial facial recognition software, though that official didn't specifically cite the privacy concerns around ID.me for the decision. "The IRS is consistently looking for ways to make the filing process more secure," Treasury Department spokesperson Alexandra LaManna told Bloomberg. "We believe in the importance of protecting the privacy of taxpayers, while also ensuring criminals are not able to gain access to taxpayer accounts." Citing a "lack of funding for IRS modernization," LaManna also said it's been "impossible" for the agency to develop its own in-house identification solution, and noted US taxpayers aren't required to file their taxes online.
Clearview AI, the surveillance firm notoriously known for harvesting some 20 billion face scans off of public social media searches, said it may bring its technology to schools and other private businesses. In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, the company revealed it's working with a U.S. company selling visitor management systems to schools. That reveal came around the same time as a horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that tragically left 19 children and two teachers dead. Though Clearview wouldn't provide more details about the education-linked companies to Gizmodo, other facial recognition competitors have spent years trying to bring the tech to schools with varying levels of success and pushback. New York state even moved to ban facial recognition in schools two years ago.
Multiple members of Congress have come out against a plan from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to incorporate facial recognition provider ID.me into its processes this summer. The White House continues to ignore requests for comment, but Congressman Ted Lieu, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Monday demanding the agency "halt its plan to employ facial recognition technology and consult with a wide variety of stakeholders before deciding on an alternative." While robust passwords help you secure your valuable online accounts, hardware-based two-factor authentication takes that security to the next level. "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 Congress members wrote.
On Monday, ID.me released a statement from CEO and founder Blake Hall about what the vendor said is its commitment to federal guidelines for facial recognition technology. Hall said the vendor uses one-to-one face match technology and not one-to-many facial recognition. One-to-one face match is a simple application of the technology that is comparable to using one's face to unlock a smartphone or be verified at an airport, Hall said in an interview with TechTarget. "It's something that Americans do broadly all across the country when they're proving their identity in person," Hall said. "What it specifically is not is like taking one person's photo and then taking like a city's worth of images and trying to like match that person's face."