After Tester Push, IRS Reverses Course on Requiring Taxpayers Use Facial Recognition Software
Senator: “This is the kind of garbage that drives me crazy”
After strong pushback from U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today announced it would reverse its decision to require taxpayers to provide facial recognition data through a third party vendor to access some tax services. Instead, the IRS announced it would work toward providing an alternative form of verification.
“This was a bad idea from the beginning, and I’m being very generous when I say ‘bad idea,’” said Tester. “The IRS has absolutely no business requiring facial recognition software on anything, but especially not when it comes to allowing Montana taxpayers to access services. This is the kind of garbage that drives me crazy, and I will be holding the IRS’s feet to the fire to make sure they follow through on their commitment to drop the required use of facial recognition data.”
The IRS recently announced that, starting in the summer of 2022, taxpayers who want to access their online accounts on IRS.gov would be required to take a photograph and verify their identity with a third party vendor called ID.me. This verification would not have been required when people file their tax return this spring, but it would be required for other services accessed through IRS.gov, raising serious concerns among privacy advocates. In a letter to the IRS, Senator Tester raised serious concerns about requiring taxpayers to provide facial recognition data through a third-party vendor to access government services:
“I’m deeply troubled by recent reports suggesting the IRS is considering using facial recognition to access online accounts though its private contractor ID.me,” Tester wrote. “While I recognize the importance of cybersecurity and identity verification, I strongly believe using facial recognition is an unnecessary privacy violation. That’s why I urge you to consider alternative methods to secure online accounts.”
Tester is a staunch defender of Montanans’ right to privacy. He recently introduced the bipartisan Not For Sale Act, which would close loopholes that allow the government to circumvent the Fourth Amendment by buying data from third-party data brokers, using improperly obtained data for facial recognition, and collecting information about Americans’ web browsing without a warrant. Tester has continually condemned the use of mass and warrantless government surveillance, and is one of only a handful of Senators that has consistently voted against reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). He has also taken a stand against the unregulated online data collection by private companies and pushed for more transparency for consumers.
Tester’s full letter to the IRS can be found HERE.