To gain access to their accounts, the Internal Revenue Service will begin requiring users of its online tax payment system to upload a selfie to a third-party company soon.
Millions of Americans will soon be required to scan their faces in order to access their tax accounts, the government's most significant expansion of facial recognition software into everyday life to date.
Beginning this summer, users who wish to access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, check their online accounts, receive an Identity Protection PIN, or view an online payment agreement must fill out the necessary online forms and create an ID.me account.
Around 70 million Americans who have filed for unemployment benefits, pandemic aid grants, or other services have already been scanned by ID.me, which claims to have 540 clients, 30 states, and 10 federal agencies on its client list.
"Identity verification is critical to safeguarding taxpayers and their data," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated in a press release. According to Rettig, the IRS has been working diligently to improve this area, "and this new verification process is intended to make IRS online applications as secure as possible for individuals."
In 2021, the McLean, Virginia-based ID.me IRS account was primarily used by recipients of advance child tax credit payments, who could use it to enroll in or withdraw from the program, as well as monitor their payments.
ID.me issued a statement on Monday reiterating its commitment to consumer privacy and stating that it does not sell users' biometrics or personal information.
"We are committed to ensuring that everyone can verify their identity online and use it to access critical services," said ID.me founder Blake Hall in a statement.
However, ID.me's $86 million contract with the IRS has alarmed researchers and privacy advocates, who are concerned about how Americans' facial images and personal data will be protected in the coming years. There is no federal law governing the use or sharing of data.
Additionally, the system generates criticism. Some users have complained about frustrating glitches and hours-long delays that have prevented them from accessing critical benefits, and researchers have argued that the company overstated the capabilities of a face-scanning technology that may incorrectly flag people as fraudsters.
ID.me describes itself as a technology provider that enables secure identity verification through the comparison of a user's photo ID and a video selfie.
It was founded in 2010 by military veteran Hall and has quickly established a foothold in the identity-verification business, frequently working on behalf of the United States government.