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The IRS website will soon require users to log in using facial recognition

Future attempts to log into the Internal Revenue Service's website will be met with a prompt requesting that you verify your identity using facial recognition software.

This procedure involves photographing an identification document such as a driver's license or passport and then taking a video selfie with a smartphone or computer, which software can then compare to the identification document. It is a result of a collaboration between the Internal Revenue Service and ID.me, a rapidly expanding company that uses facial recognition software to verify individuals' identity.

For the time being, if you already have an IRS username and password, you are not required to complete this section. Those who do not already have an ID.me account but wish to access online tools such as requesting an online tax transcript or viewing information about your tax payments or economic impact payments must create an account with ID.me before using those tools for the first time. Additionally, as of this summer, those out-of-date IRS usernames and passwords will no longer be valid and functional.

According to a report published by CNN last year, ID.me already verifies the identities of more than half of all state unemployment agencies in the United States, as well as a growing number of federal agencies. ID.me collaborates with the Internal Revenue Service, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Social Security Administration, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, in addition to other government agencies. According to the company, it currently has 70 million users and is adding 145,000 new users per day to that number.

ID.me was used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in a limited capacity last year to verify individuals who had opted out of receiving advance child tax credit payments. The Internal Revenue Service announced in November that it would expand this verification process to all logins; however, as tax season approaches and millions of people visit the IRS's website, the process has drawn some attention and scrutiny.

As John Davisson, the Electronic Privacy Information Center's director of litigation and senior counsel put it, "I believe that any plan that introduces a private intermediary into the system for accessing critical information or receiving benefits from a government agency deserves careful consideration."

According to CNN Business, the IRS has stated that creating an online account with the IRS is not required at all. Taxpayers' ability to pay and file taxes without submitting a selfie or other identifying information to an identity verification company is emphasized by the agency, according to the statement. If you would like a transcript mailed to you, please contact the IRS.

Taxpayers who access IRS self-help tools such as checking their account online or requesting a transcript online will be subjected to an identity verification process, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The rise of ID.me

Identification verification company ID.me has been in business for about a decade, but its growth accelerated during the pandemic, thanks in large part to states using the company to verify the identity of job applicants. During the pandemic, the hope was that ID.me and its facial recognition software would aid in the reduction of a spike in fraudulent claims for state and federal benefits that occurred concurrently with a tidal wave of legitimate unemployment claims, according to the company.

The expansion of ID.me into more government services has piqued the interest of privacy advocates, who are concerned about the way facial recognition technology is permeating everyday life. As a result of the company's contradictory messaging about how its service works, these concerns have been reignited this week.

In order to verify users' identities, ID.me uses a process known as facial verification, also known as one-to-one facial recognition — which is similar to the way that you unlock your smartphone with your face.

The company recently stated that it does not use one-to-many facial recognition, which is a type of machine learning. This is an example of the type of software that a police department could use. There have been at least several instances of wrongful arrests of Black men in other services that have been linked to this technology, which attempts to match the person's photo to those in a database of faces.

Blake Hall, the company's founder and CEO, stated in a statement posted to the company's website this week that "ID.me does not employ one-to-many facial recognition, which is more complex and problematic."

On the other hand, in a LinkedIn post published on Wednesday, Hall stated that the company employs "one-to-many facial recognition software on selfies associated with government programs targeted by organized crime in order to prevent prolific identity thieves and members of organized crime from mass-stealing the identities of innocent victims in order to prevent prolific identity thieves and members of organized crime from mass-stealing the identities of innocent victims."

The company, according to Madison Pappas, first verifies users' identities using one-to-one facial recognition technology, and then compares users' selfies to an internal database of selfies in order to look for "prolific attackers and members of organized crime who are stealing multiple identities." ID.me users whose photos match those in the company's database — which, according to Pappas, accounts for less than 0.1 percent of all users — are directed to a video chat session to be interviewed for verification.

Fight for the Future, a digital rights organization, responded to Hall's LinkedIn post by urging the Internal Revenue Service to discontinue the use of facial verification on its website and for government agencies to terminate their contracts with the facial recognition company ID.me.

Users have long complained about having to wait for their identities to be verified via video chat after failing the company's facial recognition step, in addition to privacy concerns. ID.me has addressed these complaints in the past. The company has responded to some of its customers on social media platforms, such as English teacher Ari Herzog, in the hope of receiving assistance from them.

In Conclusion

She had already established an IRS online account when she reported a nine-day wait for verification with ID.me in early January, which included failed upload attempts and a lengthy wait for a video call. Herzog is based in the Boston area.

In his own words, "I noticed a message stating that existing logins will be required to use the new ID.me system beginning this summer." "I figured, 'What the heck, I might as well get a jump on this; after all, how long could it possibly take?'" says the author.

A combination of the Omicron variant and snowstorms in Virginia, where the company's support team is based, limited the company's ability to assist users during the first three weeks of January, according to Pappas. In addition, she stated that nine out of ten ID.me users are automatically verified in less than five minutes, according to her.

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