The IRS offers an alternative to facial recognition
Taxpayers who register and use IRS online services are now able to authenticate their identity with a new alternative to uploading a “selfie” photo, and whether they are using facial recognition or have done in the past, their photos will be deleted, the IRS announced Monday.
The option follows the IRS’ announcement on Feb. 7 that it was dropping its plan to require selfies and facial recognition by summer 2022. The facial recognition requirement, which involves a Third-party technology provider, ID.me, has come under fire from Congress and others concerned about the privacy of taxpayers, who feared the arrangement would compromise the security of the personal information it is supposed to protect.
The new check-in option allows taxpayers to verify their identity during a “live, virtual interview with officers,” the IRS said. Taxpayers who choose to do so will not be required to provide a photo of themselves or other biometrics.
Facial recognition through ID.me also remains an option, but “new requirements are in place to ensure taxpayer-provided images are removed for the account being created,” the IRS said. And images previously provided by taxpayers for an online account or other interaction with the IRS will also be permanently deleted in the coming weeks, the statement added.
However, it emerged on Tuesday morning that the announced changes had yet to be implemented on the Taxpayer Accounts Portal. In addition to its ID.me offer, the text on the Log in or create a new account the page still urged users to choose this method and, if they had previously created an account with a username and password, to upgrade to ID.me “as soon as possible”, with the now deprecated warning , it would become mandatory in the summer of 2022 ID.me seemed to be the only option available to create an account, and no information appeared about creating an account through a virtual interview.
In addition to taxpayer accounts, ID.me can be used with the IRS Child Tax Credit update portal, get an online transcript, get an identity protection PIN and services online payment agreement, and for practitioners, the Tax Pro account and submit Forms 2848 and 8821 Online Services. It was also used for several other federal and state government services.
The IRS announced last November that ID.me would become its sole method of taxpayer authentication in 2022. Fifteen Republican senators wrote IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Feb. 3, raising questions and concerns about the plan, including how data would be stored and protected; how the Service intended to oversee ID.me as a private, non-governmental entity; the rights and guarantees of ratepayers under the arrangement; the intrusive nature of taxpayers having to provide biometric data; and their inability to change it if an account is compromised, as one can with a password. At a Feb. 17 Senate Finance Committee hearing, senators criticized the plan and asked for assurances that it had been scrapped.
“The IRS made the right decision because the reality is that protecting Americans’ privacy and increasing security are not mutually exclusive,” said chairman Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Ore. Wyden also thanked Rettig for the Service’s change of course and said he discussed his concerns with classification committee member Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who led the group that drafted the letter from the February 3.
Sen. John Thune, RS.D., also brought up ID.me during the hearing, noting reports of the IRS’ $86 million contract with the company, which he said kept the data. taxpayers for seven years.
“Which is extremely concerning to my constituents, both for privacy and security reasons,” Thune said.
Asked by Thune whether the IRS could properly protect “this kind of data,” National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins balked, saying, “I’m not an IT person, so I’ll start with that.” Collins said she acknowledged concerns about ID.me, but also noted the arrangement was expected to dramatically increase the use of online accounts and called it “vital” for taxpayers to have safe access and secured to their own tax records.
The IRS, in the latest announcement, called its new authentication process with a virtual interview a “short-term fix” for the current filing season. Going forward, the service will use Login.gov, which it said it is working with the US General Services Administration to implement after the 2022 filing deadline. Login.gov is already used by several federal agencies and functions, including by applicants for federal jobs, as well as for loans and disaster assistance from the US Small Business Administration. It is also used by travelers participating in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program and the US Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program.
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