The General Services Administration (GSA), the agency tasked with the highly sensitive task of overseeing access to many of the federal government’s digital services, failed to implement a new system of secure logins for government officials, breaching federal security guidelines in the process — because its officials were concerned about “discrimination.”
Founded in 1949 as an agency to improve the basic functions of other federal agencies, the GSA has in recent decades been given the responsibility of maintaining the government’s digital services.
One of these services, Login.gov, is a kind of master key for government officials and workers: a sign-on service that controls access to several key government services. It was this service that federal officials compromised by refusing to implement a new facial recognition system to verify the identity of new users.
IN JUNE 2021, DAVE ZVENYACH, director of a group tasked with improving digital access to US government services, sent a Slack message to his team. He’d decided that Login.gov, which provides a secure way to access dozens of government apps and websites, wouldn’t use selfies and face recognition to verify the identity of people creating new accounts. “The benefits of liveness/selfie do not outweigh any discriminatory impact,” he wrote, referring to the process of asking users to upload a selfie and photo of their ID so that algorithms can compare the two.
Zvenyach likely based his conclusion on the findings of leftist researchers in the field of “machine learning fairness.” Eager to push their ideology into the field of computer science, these researchers have used examples of quickly-corrected machine error, like AIs failing to successfully distinguish between skin colors, as evidence of racism.
The decision by Zvenyach put him in the crosshairs of federal regulations:
Zvenyach’s pronouncement also put Login.gov and US agencies using the service at odds with federal security guidelines. For access to some sensitive data or services, they require that a person’s identity be confirmed against a government ID, either in person or remotely using a biometric such as fingerprint or face recognition.
The inspector general’s report finds that the GSA misled 22 agencies paying for use of Login.gov by claiming its service was fully compliant with National Institute of Standards and Technology requirements when it was not. An official from one federal agency told OIG investigators that Login.gov not complying with the standard left their agency at greater risk of fraud. Zvenyach did not respond to questions from WIRED about the report.
A report from the GSA’s inspector general confirmed that Zvenyach eventually told other agencies that Login.gov was not compliant with the guidelines on facial recognition.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.
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