Facial Recognition

IRS Announces Transition Away From Facial Recognition Verification

Recent backlash and concern about the collection of sensitive biometric data have the IRS changing course away from facial recognition

NBC Universal, Inc.

The IRS is changing course after partnering with a third-party company that uses facial recognition to verify the identities of taxpayers logging onto their IRS accounts.

The agency previously announced that starting in summer 2022, if you needed to log in to the IRS’s website to access certain online tools, you would need to create an account with the third-party identity verification company ID.me.

As a part of this verification process, taxpayers would be asked to upload a picture of their passport or license using a secure link. Next, the system would prompt the user to take a video selfie to verify the photos.

But recent backlash and concern about the collection of sensitive biometric data have the IRS changing course.

In a statement released Monday, the agency said they will transition away from the technology in the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during the filing season.  

They also stated “During the transition, the IRS will quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition. The IRS will also continue to work with its cross-government partners to develop authentication methods that protect taxpayer data and ensure broad access to online tools.”

The company ID.me is the same company the state contracted with during the pandemic to help verify the identities of claimants before they could unlock their unemployment accounts.

When we previously asked the company about the privacy concerns stemming from the IRS verification process, a spokesperson with the company told us “Data is encrypted and stored by ID.me in a way that cannot be accessed by any other entity besides ID.me. No third party organizations, including government agencies, have access to ID.me’s database. The information provided by ID.me users for the purposes of verifying their identity with government agencies is securely retained by ID.me. Biometric data is not shared with government agencies as part of the verification process.“

When asked directly for comment related to the recent decision by the IRS, the company referred us to the IRS for any questions.

However, on social media, the company posted saying “ID.me is an identity verification company. We orchestrate numerous tools. Facial recognition is just one of the components we use to follow the federal standards. Without it, the identity thieves behind these masks would be much more successful.”

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