Amid intense media scrutiny, the Treasury Department is reconsidering its use of ID.me’s biometric technology to verify the identities of individuals filing their taxes online.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, the agency and the IRS, its largest bureau, are now looking for alternatives to ID.me, in the wake of criticism over plans to make ID.me’s selfie-based onboarding system the only means of identity verification for online tax filing.
For its part, ID.me has sought to take a transparent stance about its technology and how it works, explaining in a blog post last week that Paravision provides its facial recognition technology for one-to-one matching, and that iProov provides liveness detection technology to help thwart presentation attacks. ID.me uses Amazon’s Rekognition platform, meanwhile, for one-to-many matching.
The company’s use of Rekognition is drawing particular concern from some advocacy groups, due to research efforts that have uncovered disparities in its performance between racial groups, which could have discriminatory outcomes in large-scale deployments. ID.me uses Rekognition to check for matches between a given end user and its internal database of all users, in order to ensure the the individual is not attempting to fraudulently make claims under multiple profiles.
For end user authentication, ID.me looks to Paravision’s technology, which performed exceptionally well in testing with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), both in terms of high accuracy and low demographic bias.
In a letter to the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, a researcher who had previously examined Rekognition’s demographic bias problem warned against putting “all Americans at the mercy of unverified and under-scrutinized algorithms, from a field whose algorithms are already known to have biased properties.”
While the Treasury Department is ostensibly looking for an alternative remote onboarding solution, a spokesperson suggested that it has little choice but to rely on third party vendors due to a “lack of funding for IRS modernization.” A lack of resources has also been cited as a major hindrance in the IRS’s efforts to pursue tax fraud more generally. President Biden pledged to increase IRS funding by $80 billion in his Build Back Better plan, which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated would generate $200 billion in additional revenue over the next decade.
February 1, 2022 – by Alex Perala