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IRS Drops Facial Recognition Requirement, Offers Live Virtual Interview Option

(by Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica) – The Internal Revenue Service today said that selfies collected from taxpayers will be deleted and that it has deployed a new verification option as an alternative to its controversial facial recognition system. The IRS’s use of the ID.me facial recognition service has been criticized by privacy and civil rights advocates as well as lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Two weeks ago, the IRS responded to the bipartisan backlash by saying it “will transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts” and “quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition.” Today, the IRS announced that a new option for creating accounts without facial recognition is “now available for taxpayers.”

Instead of providing a selfie, “taxpayers will have the option of verifying their identity during a live, virtual interview with agents; no biometric data—including facial recognition—will be required if taxpayers choose to authenticate their identity through a virtual interview,” the IRS said.

Creating a new IRS account still requires ID.me, so those agents are presumably ID.me employees. We ran into an error message when trying to create a new account today.

IRS: Biometric data will be “permanently deleted”

Taxpayers setting up new accounts can choose to use the ID.me selfie method that involves facial recognition technology instead. But based on today’s announcement, newly collected and previously collected images should all be deleted from ID.me’s servers.

The IRS explained:

Taxpayers will still have the option to verify their identity automatically through the use of biometric verification through ID.me’s self-assistance tool if they choose. For taxpayers who select this option, new requirements are in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers are deleted for the account being created. Any existing biometric data from taxpayers who previously created an IRS Online Account that has already been collected will also be permanently deleted over the course of the next few weeks.

The ID.me verification process used for the IRS and other agencies involves uploading a photo of an ID such as a license or passport along with a video selfie. The images are then compared against each other to verify the user’s identity. ID.me last month claimed it does not use the controversial “one-to-many” approach in which a person’s face is compared to a large database of faces, but the company later acknowledged that it uses both one-to-one and one-to-many. Read Full Article >

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