On Monday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced in a statement that it would no longer be moving forward with previous plans to implement a controversial facial recognition software on its website in order for users to access certain tax records.
According to CNN, the IRS’s reversal came after widespread backlash by elected officials, privacy groups, and others who pointed out that such technology would constitute a massive overreach and violation of individual privacy. The IRS said in its statement that it would “transition away from using a third-party verification service involving facial recognition,” and would instead add an “additional authentication process.” The agency also vowed to “protect taxpayer data and ensure broad access to online tools.”
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously,” IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig said, “and we understand the concerns that have been raised. 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.”
As previously reported, the IRS’s plans included partnering with a third-party firm called ID.me, which specializes in facial recognition software. The planned partnership, first announced in November, would force users to provide a form of government-issued identification, along with a photograph and a selfie, in order to confirm their identity. This function would be necessary in order to access certain tax records, including payment plans and the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.
The proposed facial recognition software drew bipartisan condemnation from Capitol Hill, with Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), sending letters to the IRS demanding that the plans be halted.
“I understand the transition process may take time,” said Wyden’s statement on Monday, “but I appreciate that the administration recognizes that privacy and security are not mutually exclusive and no one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access critical government services.”