The IRS announced on Monday it would suspend the use of facial recognition technology to authenticate people who create online accounts after the practice came under fire from privacy advocates and lawmakers.
The agency said it will no longer use a third-party service, called ID.me, for facial recognition. Software critics said the database could become a target for cyber threats. They also expressed concern about how the information might be used by other government agencies, among other concerns.
Earlier Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on the agency to end its use of ID.me software. After the IRS announced the practice would be suspended, Wyden said “the Treasury Department made the smart move to direct the IRS to stop using the controversial ID.me verification service.”
“No one should be forced to undergo facial recognition to access essential government services,” he added.
The IRS is currently struggling with a shortage of workers and an increased workload related to processing tax returns and administering programs related to the pandemic. Legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars to process returns faster is blocked.
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said.
“Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly looking at short-term options that don’t involve facial recognition.”
The agency said the transition would occur “over the next few weeks to avoid greater disruption for taxpayers during filing season.”