Taxpayers in the US do not need to use facial recognition or any type of biometric data to access their online accounts if they don’t want to. The IRS has announced that users can opt for a live virtual interview to authenticate their identity instead of registering for an ID.me account. This move comes a few weeks after the agency said it will stop using facial recognition following pressure from both sides of the political aisle. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have raised concerns about the privacy and security implications of using ID.me facial recognition and how it will make the IRS a prime target for cyberattacks.
To register for an ID.me account, taxpayers will have to send the service a copy of their identity document, an electricity bill and a video selfie. Those who don’t mind using facial recognition to file taxes online can still use it for verification if they want. The agency’s announcement said it has implemented new protection to ensure that images provided by contributors are deleted going forward. Existing biometric data provided by users who previously created an online account was also collected and will be “permanently deleted over the next few weeks,” the IRS said.
It’s unclear how the IRS plans to ensure it can conduct timely verification interviews for everyone who doesn’t want to use facial recognition. How The New York Times newspaper notes, the agency is dealing with staff shortages and lack of funding, and currently has a delay of around 24 million tax returns. The agency called the virtual interview option a “short-term solution” for this year’s filing season. He said he is now working with partners to “achieve the required security standards and scale of Login.Gov,” so he can roll out the login service that is already being used by government websites after the 2022 filing deadline.
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