The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said it will no longer use face-recognition technology for taxpayers who are interacting with the agency online, CBS News reported on Tuesday.
The agency’s decision to scrap face-recognition comes after lawmakers, privacy advocates, and taxpayers vocalized concerns that the image-based system from verification company ID.me could lead to data security issues. According to the report:
The IRS said the shift away from use of the facial-recognition technology will “occur over the coming weeks” to avoid disruptions during tax filing season, which is already facing a backlog of returns and paperwork. The plan had drawn criticism among civil liberties advocates and ordinary taxpayers over concerns that the system — which requires users to upload their ID and submit a selfie or video chat with an agent — could provide troves of personal information to hackers.
Four congressional Democrats sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig on Monday asking the agency to “pause its use of facial-recognition technology for taxpayers logging into their IRS.gov accounts, citing concerns about privacy, data security and access for people without internet access,” the report continues. The lawmakers pointed to a 2019 incident in which a government contractor’s computer system was hacked and thousands of Americans’ license plates and faces were exposed.
The IRS in a statement said it will create “an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition,” though the agency did not go into specifics.
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” Rettig said in the statement. “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 IRS first announced its partnership with ID.me in November but gained more attention in January after media and blog coverage. The agency claimed at the time that the technology would be used to fight fraud, which has reportedly surged in recent years. According to Axios, the U.S. government has been “increasing its use of facial recognition technology overall.” The publication cited a recent GAO report, which found that at least ten federal agencies “plan to expand adoption of face recognition.”