Just weeks after the IRS announced plans to drop its heavy use of facial recognition platform ID.me by next filing season, amid scrutiny from elected officials and advocacy groups. defense, the state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance plans to do the same in the coming weeks.
“Thanks to an organized pushback, the Biden administration appears to be moving away from requiring people doing business with the IRS to use facial recognition,” Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. communicated. “People should not be required to hand over their sensitive biometric data to a private company in order to receive government services.”
The IRS has announced plans to withdraw its use of ID.me, which began Feb. 7, under pressure from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other lawmakers over privacy concerns, as well as racial bias against darker skin often. integrated into facial recognition software. It first used the technology last year to give taxpayers access to personalized information about eligibility for child tax credits under President Joe Biden’s US bailout.
Massachusetts, along with more than half of the other US states, uses ID.me, which has been approved by the US Department of Labor. More than 46,000 Bay State residents used ID.me between March 2021 and February 2022 to validate their IDs and apply for unemployment benefits.
The state’s Department of Unemployment Assistance first used ID.me to speed up access to benefits following a nationwide fraud scheme in which people with information stolen IDs targeted several state unemployment programs, including the Massachusetts program.
Now that the volume of claims and fraud have both decreased, the state plans to drop the facial recognition component. The agency said it would welcome advice from the federal government on further verification measures, but did not say it was ending its use of the technology due to concerns raised by advocates and legislators.
“We hope it’s not just a fallback option, when they see cases of fraud increasing and they see it as a tool in their toolbox, but rather that they understand the privacy and security concerns and put them at the forefront when considering options to combat unemployment fraud in the future,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director for advocacy organization Fight for the Future.
She added that other verification methods used by the federal government, such as those that ask users for personal information about their previous addresses, could be used instead.
“Facial recognition should not be a prerequisite for accessing unemployment insurance or any other essential government service,” Sens wrote. Warren, Ron Wyden and Sherrod Brown in a joint statement denouncing the use of ID.me in state agencies.
“One of the largest providers in the space, ID.me, not only uses facial recognition and lacks transparency about its processes and results, but often has unacceptable wait times for users to be screened. by humans after being rejected by the company’s automated scanning system,” they continued.
A spokesperson for ID.me said only eight out of an average of 10,000 identity verification attempts are flagged for review. Of these eight, two result in a verified account, and the other six are likely to be fraudulent. The company also recently announced an additional verification method that does not use facial recognition.