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Under Pressure from Congress, The IRS won’t use Facial Recognition for Online Account Access

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting  

In a February 7, 2022, news release, the IRS announced that it will “transition away” from using facial recognition verification through a third-party service. The move comes after members of Congress questioned the IRS’s use of ID.me to verify taxpayers’ online accounts.

GOP senators query IRS regarding its collaboration with ID.me.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on February 3 voicing their displeasure with the agency’s collaboration with ID.me that will require taxpayers to have an ID.me account to access key IRS online resources.

“While we understand the IRS’s use of ID.me is intended to protect data and reduce fraud, we have serious concerns about how ID.me may affect confidential taxpayer information and fundamental civil liberties,” the letter said.

According to the senators, as part of the registration, ID.me requires a trove of personal information, which may include one or more of the following: government-issued photo ID; passport; birth certificate; Form W-2; Social Security card; veteran health ID card; DHS trusted traveler card; video “selfie;” utility bill; insurance bill; telephone bill; and a recorded video interview with an ID.me employee.

“The most intrusive verification item is the required ‘selfie,’ which is much more than simply uploading a picture; it is submitting one’s face to be digitally analyzed by ID.me into a ‘faceprint,'” the senators wrote. “Additionally, using ID.me appears to subject taxpayers to the terms of three separate agreements filled with dense legal fine print.”

The IRS’s unilateral decision “[allowing] an outside contractor to stand as the gatekeeper between citizens and necessary government services” is problematic, the letter said, as is the fact that ID.me “is not, to our knowledge, subject to the same oversight rules as a government agency, such as the Freedom of Information Act.” The senator’s letter contained a lengthy series of questions and requests they want IRS to respond to by February 27. They also want a subsequent briefing to review the IRS’s written responses.

News release announces IRS’s retreat.

The news release said the IRS would “transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts” over the coming weeks.

The release also announced that the IRS would develop and bring online an authentication process that doesn’t involve facial recognition.

“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 pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”

According to the news release, the transition doesn’t interfere with a taxpayer’s ability to file a return or pay taxes owed. People should continue to file their taxes as they normally would, the release said.

To continue your research on information about IRS online accounts for individuals, see FTC 2d/FIN ¶ S-6408.

 

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