The Internal Revenue Service announced this week that it will no longer require taxpayers to use a private facial-recognition system to access their online accounts.
But critics argue that the now-foiled effort is part of an ongoing expansion of the frightening federal agency into more of our daily routines and activities.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said, “Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured” in a statement announcing the program’s cancellation.
A majority of Americans were uneasy about handing over their face to the federal government for a face scan.
Usha Rackliffe, a professor at Emory University, says that taxpayers using IRS.gov to make a payment or check their account balance will be required to upload video and a government-issued photo ID.
However, that would have to be completed by the summer of 2022 in order to access older tax returns and information on the federal Child Tax Credit. According to Rackliffe, the process of filing a tax return would be unaffected.
Many civil liberties groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and digital advocacy group Fight For The Future, have serious concerns about IRS use of the technology.
In a statement, Fight for the Future’s Caitlin Seeley George said, “The IRS’s plan for using facial recognition on people who are just trying to access their tax information online was a profound threat to everyone’s security and civil liberties.”
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Allies of the Biden administration also turned their backs on the IRS plan. senator from Oregon Ron Wyden wrote to Rettig: “The IRS should not require facial recognition for any of the other important services it provides taxpayers.”
“The IRS does not use facial recognition for tax filing or to receive a refund,” Wyden wrote.
Rackliffe’s fellow Georgian, former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, is one of the few civil rights figures who doesn’t object.
InsideSources quotes Young as saying, “I am on the other side. In my opinion, anything that improves people’s security and freedom is a good thing.
Every government office, I believe, uses facial recognition software.”
He went on to say that in almost every situation, he favors photo (or video) identification.
“Voter ID cards could have pictures on them. An executive order is all that is required of the president. It’s so clean, your fingerprints wouldn’t even show.
It can be used for a variety of other purposes, as well. Take a picture of yourself before you do anything. A criminal record would be a problem, but that’s already a problem.
“It’s done in India. Over a billion people live in that country,” Young went on to say.
Rackliffe is concerned about three things.
“The software’s accuracy is our primary concern. There are always going to be issued with technology. Biometric scanning is used in facial recognition software. You can verify your identity with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
There are some studies out there showing that it may not always be accurate in identifying you if you have a darker skin tone. There have been more false negatives and false positives in people with darker skin.”
With the IRS relying on a third-party vendor like ID.me, Rackliffe is also uneasy.
As Rackliffe explained, “This is a third-party company that you have between yourself and the government.”
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“That’s always a nerve-wracking situation.” The government has chosen to work with this company to collect and store this data. The fact that we hear about companies being hacked and sensitive information being compromised can frighten some people,”
Both the IRS and ID.me haven’t explained how they plan to collect and store data, she points out.
As far as who will have access to this information and what they plan on doing with it, there are a lot of questions.
It’s possible to think of this as a one-to-one face identification system similar to the one found on an iPhone.
It’s possible, though, that it’s all part of a facial recognition database. … As Rackliffe put it, “We can all agree that using technology to catch a bad guy is a good thing.” “How far can the government go before it’s deemed an abuse of power?”