That verification requirement will soon be required for all taxpayers to view other personal tax documents on the IRS website. Although ID.me is widely-used, including by other government entities, and is generally considered secure, the thought of facial recognition being implemented by the agency many Americans already love to hate will be at least somewhat disturbing to some.
According to The Washington Post, “Taxpayers will still be able to file their returns the old-fashioned way. But by this summer, anyone wanting to access their records – including details about child tax credits, payment plans or tax transcripts – on the IRS website will be required to record a video of their face with their computer or smartphone and send it to the private contractor ID.me to confirm their identity.” (Via Yahoo!
ID.me is a Virginia-based company with contracts with multiple states and almost a dozen federal agencies, including the Veterans Administration and Department of Labor.
The company’s two-year contract with the Treasury Department and the IRS is reported to be worth $86 million, which by federal standards is somewhat low, but the current implementation is still limited.
One of the biggest concerns for many Americans is security, aside from conjuring up thoughts of a sci-fi futuristic authoritarian government. The top legal representative for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Jeramie Scott, told the Post, “You go from a government agency, that at least has some obligation under the Privacy Act and other laws, to a third party, where [there’s a] lack of transparency and understanding, and the potential risks go up.”
Publicly, the IRS has stated that it takes security and “inequities in service seriously.”
The ID.me system is available on computers or mobile devices, and it guides users through a process that includes taking a picture of their face, official identification (drivers license or passport, for example), and occasionally other documents. On the back end, if the automated system is unsure if the images match, it may require additional supporting information or get a human involved in the verification process.