IRS now allowing people to opt-out of facial recognition

Leada Gore
al.com (TNS)

The Internal Revenue Service now says it will allow taxpayers to opt out of using facial recognition technology to verify their identity.

The tax agency announced Monday people trying to access their online accounts can verify their identity through a live, virtual interview with a representative from a third-party service, ID.me, The Hill reported. The interview will not require the collection of any biometric data, including facial recognition.

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“Taxpayers will have the option of verifying their identity during a live, virtual interview with agents; no biometric data – including facial recognition – will be required if taxpayers choose to authenticate their identity through a virtual interview,” the IRS said in a statement.

Taxpayers will still have the option to verify their identity automatically through the use of biometric verification through ID.me’s self-assistance tool. New requirements are put in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers will be deleted and all existing biometric data previously created for an IRS online account will be permanently deleted over the course of the next few weeks.

The IRS announced earlier this month it would transition away from ID.me over concerns about privacy and the use of facial recognition to verify access to tax information.

The IRS is currently grappling with a worker shortage and an expanded workload from processing tax filings and administering pandemic-related programs. Legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars to more expeditiously process returns is stalled.

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“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

“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.”

The agency said the transition would occur “over the coming weeks in order to prevent larger disruptions to taxpayers during filing season.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.