The Internal Revenue Service is abandoning its plans to partner with an outside company that would have used facial recognition to verify new accounts, the agency announced Monday.
The decision, a victory for privacy advocates, comes as tax season begins in the U.S. and should not affect taxpayers’ attempts to file their returns or pay their taxes, the IRS said in a statement.
The IRS had planned to use the facial recognition technology developed by the company ID.me as a way to cut down on fraudulent new accounts. But privacy advocates warned that facial recognition technology is often flawed and can be biased against minorities, and that it presents a security concern whenever a third-party company handles people’s sensitive data.
ID.me didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in the statement. “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.”
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who had publicly requested Monday morning that the IRS sever ties with ID.me, called the move a “smart decision.”
“I appreciate that the administration recognizes that privacy and security are not mutually exclusive and no one should be forced to submit to facial recognition to access critical government services,” he said in a statement.
It’s unclear how the IRS will streamline taxpayer authentication without ID.me.
“During the transition, the IRS will quickly develop and bring online an additional authentication process that does not involve facial recognition,” the agency statement said. “The IRS will also continue to work with its cross-government partners to develop authentication methods that protect taxpayer data and ensure broad access to online tools.”