The IRS said Monday it will suspend the use of facial recognition technology to authenticate people who create online accounts after the practice was criticised by privacy advocates and lawmakers.
The agency said it would no longer use a third-party service, called ID.me, for facial recognition. Critics of the software said the database could become a target for cyberthreats. They also expressed concern about how the information could be used by other government agencies, among other concerns.
Earlier Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the agency to end its use of the ID.me software. After the IRS announced the practice would be suspended, Wyden said “the Treasury Department has made the smart decision to direct the IRS to transition away from using the controversial ID.me verification service.”
“No one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access critical government services,” he added.
The IRS is currently grappling with a worker shortage and an expanded workload from processing tax filings and administering pandemic-related programmes. Legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars to more expeditiously process returns is stalled.
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.
“Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”
The agency said the transition would occur “over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season.”