The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are reportedly looking for alternatives to the controversial facial recognition software ID.me, according to a report by Bloomberg. As Bloomberg notes, the agencies didn’t cite a reason for the possible change, and also didn’t mention any privacy concerns about the service.
The IRS can’t establish its own software due to a “lack of funding”
“The IRS is consistently looking for ways to make the filing process more secure,” Treasury Department spokesperson Alexandra LaManna said in a statement to 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.” LaManna also told Bloomberg users aren’t obligated to file their taxes online and that it’s unlikely for the department to establish in-house software due to a “lack of funding for IRS modernization.” The IRS and ID.me didn’t immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.
Last year, the IRS announced its plans to start requiring people who file their taxes online to register with third-party facial recognition company ID.me. Through the service, users will have to submit a video selfie using a webcam or mobile device to verify their identity. The IRS is supposed to roll out the program this summer.
Although ID.me previously claimed it only uses one-to-one facial matching, which involves matching a user’s face with images of the same face, ID.me CEO Blake Hall admitted it uses technology that matches faces against a larger database. This only exacerbates privacy concerns — politicians, the American Civil Liberties Union, and digital rights advocates have already spoken out about the IRS’ use of the software.
The US government currently employs ID.me to verify people’s identity for Social Security, state benefits, and Veterans Affairs. In 2021, a number of people who used ID.me to verify their state benefits reported having their benefits denied or applications put on hold due to possible issues with the software.