After a backlash from critics, the IRS has scrapped plans for facial recognition technology.
The Internal Revenue Service stated this week that it would no longer require taxpayers to use private facial-recognition technology to access their online accounts. However, opponents claim that the now-failed endeavor is part of a larger drive by the terrifying government agency to infiltrate more areas of our life.
“Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is safeguarded,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a statement announcing the program’s end. Few Americans felt comfortable handing the feds a facial scan, based on the response.
Taxpayers accessing IRS.gov to pay their taxes or check their balance would have to provide a video of themselves as well as a government-issued picture ID, according to Emory University Professor Usha Rackliffe. To get access to earlier tax returns and information on the federal Child Tax Credit, that would have to be done by the summer of 2022 under the original proposal. It would not affect the process of submitting a tax return, according to Rackliffe.
Rackliffe, as well as civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, have raised severe concerns about the IRS’s use of the technology.
“The IRS’s intention to utilize facial recognition on individuals who are just attempting to access their tax information online was a grave danger to everyone’s security and civil rights,” said Caitlin Seeley George of Fight for the Future in a statement. “We’re relieved to see that public outcry and pressure from politicians and experts pushed the agency to back down.”
Even Biden’s supporters in the administration moved away from the IRS plan. In a letter to Rettig, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said, “The IRS does not employ facial recognition for tax filing or receiving a refund, and the agency should not demand facial recognition for any of the other essential services it offers taxpayers.”
Rackliffe’s fellow Georgian, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, is one civil rights champion who does not oppose.
Young told InsideSources, “I’m on the opposite side.” “I am in favor of everything that would make people feel safer and more liberated. Facial recognition software, I believe, is now in use in almost every government agency.”
He went on to remark that in almost every case, he prefers picture (or video) identification.
“We may be able to get a voter ID with a photo on it.” The president would just need to issue an executive order to accomplish this. It’s even possible to imprint your fingerprints on it. It may also be used for other purposes. Take a photo of anything you sign up for. Only individuals with a criminal record would be affected, but that is already an issue.
“It’s done in India.” Young said, “That is a nation with over a billion people.”
Rackliffe is concerned about three things.
“The first point of worry is the software’s correctness. There are always obstacles when it comes to technology. Biometric scanning is used in face recognition software. As a result, it employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to confirm that you are who you claim to be. Although it seems to be a wonderful idea in principle, studies have shown that if you have a darker skin tone, it may not always be accurate in identifying you. False negatives and false positives have been more common in those with darker skin tones.”
Rackliffe is also wary of the IRS depending on a third-party service like ID.me.
“You have a third-party firm between you and the government,” Rackliffe said. “That makes people jittery all of the time.” This is the business with whom the government has chosen to collect and store such information. Because we often hear about corporations being hacked and important information being exposed, this might make people concerned.”
She also points out that neither the IRS nor ID.me have spelled forth the specifics of their data gathering procedure or how data is preserved.
“There are a lot of worries and questions about who will have access to this information and what they will do with it.” You may think of it as one-on-one facial recognition, similar to how an iPhone works. However, there is a greater fear that it is a face recognition database. Many issues arise, such as whether the information will be shared with police enforcement. Because the IRS has not said who would have access to this information or how it will be utilized, several problems arise.
“I think we can all agree that using technology to apprehend a bad individual is a positive thing,” said Rackliffe. “However, when does it cross the line into government overreach?”