Updated Feb 7, 2022 - Economy & Business

IRS to end use of facial recognition program

tax forms
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The IRS will abandon a push to have some taxpayers use facial recognition software to identify themselves, the agency confirmed on Monday.

Why it matters: The initial decision to use facial recognition software sparked significant backlash and a debate about how the government should use such technology, with critics warning of the risk that information collected could be used for other purposes.

Catch up quick: The IRS had planned to have taxpayers provide documents and a video selfie to a third party company, ID.me, when conducting certain online interactions with the agency.

The big picture: "The IRS announced it will transition away from using a third-party service for facial recognition to help authenticate people creating new online accounts," the agency said in a news release.

  • The transition will take place over the next few weeks and will not interfere with taxpayers' abilities to file their taxes and returns, it added.

What they're saying: “The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said IRS commissioner Charles 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," he added.
  • "I have long argued that Americans should not have to sacrifice their privacy for security,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Rettig earlier Monday. "The government can treat Americans with respect and dignity while protecting against fraud and identity theft."

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Ina Fried: Politicians and civil rights groups have raised concerns both about government use of facial ID tech broadly as well as specific issues related to ID.me.

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