Following the outcry over facial recognition software earlier this month, the IRS announced that it was stepping away from a deal with ID.me that would have required “selfies” for authentication. The announcement, which came days after the IRS revealed that it was reassessing the deal, came after widespread outrage over privacy and ease-of-use concerns.
The IRS explained on Monday how things will work with account registration in a post-ID.me world. In a press release, the agency said that “a new option” is now available for taxpayers to sign up for accounts “without the use of any biometric data, including facial recognition.”
“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 agency said in the announcement. Taxpayers may still use the ID.me tool, but doing so is no longer required.
“For taxpayers who select this option, new requirements are in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers are deleted for the account being created,” the release said. “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.”
A Rough Spring for the IRS
The IRS also said that it will work to offer Login.gov as a future authentication tool, although it won’t be available in time for this year’s filing deadline in April.
The IRS has been open about its troubles heading into the 2022 filing season, including its staffing and funding shortages. The agency has also been warning of delays on tax refunds this year and has asked Congress for additional funding, although such funding is unlikely to arrive anytime soon.
“Covid has caused additional problems,” Erin Collins, the national taxpayer advocate, told NBC News earlier this month. “If you have an issue with your return, you will experience delays.”
More Trouble For ID.me
Meanwhile, Gizmodo reported last week that ID.me is facing the possible loss of its other government contracts. A group of Democratic senators wrote a letter to the Department of Labor that expressed outrage regarding the technology and asked the Department of Labor to identify ways for both the federal government and states to find alternatives to ID.me.
“It is particularly concerning that one of the most prominent vendors in the space, ID.me, not only uses facial recognition and lacks transparency about its processes and results but frequently has unacceptably long wait times for users to be screened by humans after being rejected by the company’s automated scanning systems,” the letter from the senators said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.