In early 2022, Snopes readers asked for verification of news reports and screenshots of headlines circulating on social media reporting that the Internal Revenue Service will ask people to upload a selfie in order to log into IRS accounts in line.
“Will the IRS require ID.me authentication to access my irs.gov account?” asked one reader.
“Is it true that you will soon have to scan your face to access tax accounts? asked another reader.
As of this writing, it’s true that the IRS will require taxpayers to use facial recognition software built by a tech company called ID.me to access IRS documents and services online.
We contacted the IRS for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. But the case has been reported and confirmed by the IRS through various reputable news sources.
On January 28, 2022, business-focused media Bloomberg reported that the IRS and US Treasury Department were “re-examining” the use of facial recognition software provided by ID.me for its online tax portal after received significant feedback from members of Congress. , tech privacy activists and open government advocates:
The Treasury and IRS are researching alternatives to ID.me, a department official said, but did not say the agencies are listening to concerns about the software. The company is facing growing criticism over its software and its use of facial recognition technology.
A January 2022 letter sent to the IRS by the government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) stated:
“We urge you to stop deploying this technology, because of the dangers it poses to civil liberties and access to services. The use of biometrics – in particular facial recognition – creates risks regarding both the accuracy of its use and the potential to facilitate surveillance.
A major concern, according to POGO, is that facial recognition systems have a higher error rate for women and people of color.
“It is unacceptable that the ability to use IRS services without barriers may vary based on race or gender,” according to POGO’s letter.
The organization also expressed “doubts about how this system could further speed up biometric monitoring, and facial recognition monitoring in particular”, adding that accessing tax information on a government website should not require people to bear an “unacceptable cost to privacy and civil liberties, especially when the government’s use of facial recognition for surveillance purposes is not subject to any federal rules or limits.
An IRS spokesperson told Bloomberg that taxpayers who do not want their faces used to log into its website can opt out of online filing. The spokesperson added that a third-party contractor was used for this system because “lack of IRS modernization funding” prevented the agency from developing its own identification security system.
According to technology news site Gizmodo, starting in the summer of 2022, taxpayers accessing IRS accounts online will need to create an account with ID.me” by uploading a driver’s license, passport or passport card. Users are then prompted to use a cell phone camera or their computer’s webcam to take a selfie. »
The company uses its technology to cross-reference the selfie with government IDs to verify identity.
The decision to use this technology has drawn criticism from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent a joint letter that “demanded that the IRS immediately halt any program that collects, stores and uses any type of biometric data to identify American taxpayers.
Epstein, Jennifer et al. “Treasury Weighing Alternatives to ID.me Over Privacy Concerns,” January 28, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-01-28/treasury-weighing-id-me-alternatives-over-issues confidentiality
“The IRS will require facial recognition scans to access your taxes online.” Gizmodo, January 19, 2022, https://gizmodo.com/irs-will-require-facial-recognition-scans-to-access-you-1848387715.
“Senators Merkley and Blunt demand the immediate cessation of any Internal Tax Services (IRS) program using the biometric data of U.S. taxpayers.” Press Release, https://www.merkley.senate.gov/news/press-releases/senators-merkley-and-blunt-demand-the-immediate-halt-of-any-internal-revenue-services-irs- programs -using-biometric-data-of-US-taxpayers. Accessed February 4, 2022.