IRS moves away from facial recognition to access online system

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The IRS said Monday it would “move away” from requiring taxpayers to verify their identity through facial recognition software to access their online accounts. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License picture

February 7 (UPI) — The Internal Revenue Service said Monday it will no longer use facial recognition software as a requirement for taxpayers to access their online accounts.

In one statement mondaythe agency said it would ‘move away’ from requiring taxpayers to take selfies and verify their identity via ID.me – a third-party service – over concerns about privacy and data security .

“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly looking at short-term options that don’t involve facial recognition.”

Last month, the IRS announced the switch to facial recognition, saying it would phase out the previous system that only required an email and password to access online accounts by mid- 2022.

The agency said the email and password system was risky and facial recognition would help protect taxpayers from identity theft.

Americans would not be required to use facial recognition to pay their taxes, but would have to use the system to access other services such as records of previous payments, access to pay stubs and portal access update of the child tax credit.

The Treasury Department awarded ID.me, a 12-year-old Virginia-based company, an $86 million contract in 2021 to make taxpayer accounts more secure.

Critics of the program, however, raised concerns about the collection of sensitive biometric data, and privacy advocates said ID.me was unreliable in verifying identities.

In a tweet mondayID.me said facial recognition is “just one of the components we use to follow federal standards.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the IRS should seek a less invasive solution.

“I’ve long argued that Americans shouldn’t have to sacrifice privacy for security,” Wyden said. “The government can treat Americans with respect and dignity while protecting them from fraud and identity theft.”

The IRS said the transition “will occur over the next few weeks to avoid greater disruption to taxpayers during filing season” and will not interfere with taxpayers’ ability to file their taxes or to pay the taxes due.

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