House Democrats urge IRS to suspend facial recognition plans

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta February 7, 2022
Updated 2022/02/07 at 6:44 PM

It’s not just Republican senators upset about the IRS’s plans to adopt facial recognition. Democratic Representatives Ted Lieu, Anna Eshoo, Pramila Jayapal and Yvette Clarke sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, demanding that his agency drop plans to use facial recognition starting this summer. They are concerned that the plan will compromise privacy and security, forcing sensitive data to be uploaded to a database that could be a “prime target” for cyberattacks, such as the one that exposed signs at Customs and Border Protection in 2019.

Members of Congress were also concerned about lingering accuracy and bias issues with facial recognition systems. While maintains its egalitarian and inclusive technology, Democrats pointed to a National Institute of Standards and Technology study that showed far more false positives for Asian and black faces, even in one-to-one matching systems like ID. . I sometimes use. The facial recognition requirement also discriminated against those who could not afford “reliable” broadband and video capabilities, according to the letter.

Transparency was also a point of contention. House representatives were concerned that would back off on claims that it did not use potentially more invasive facial recognition technology and that the IRS was not transparent about its contract.

The House group asked the IRS to answer several questions in addition to rethinking its policy. Politicians wanted the tax service to explain the methodology that led to the contract, including examples of fraud that would justify facial recognition and the lack of disclosures around technology. Lieu and allies also wanted to know whether the IRS had taken steps to address potential bias and security breaches. There was no deadline for answering these questions.

Cards like this do not guarantee action. There is no immediate threat from legislation or other efforts that could force the IRS to change course. They reflect growing bipartisan (and bicameral) opposition to the service’s facial recognition strategy, and come as part of a broader effort to ban the technology at the federal level. If politicians deem the IRS response inadequate, they may increase their legislative efforts.

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