Unfortunately, before this change of heart the IRS had already directed 7 million Americans to facial recognition vendor ID.me, reports the Washington Post. Now the chair of the House Oversight Committee is urging IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to instruct ID.me to destroy the biometric data and ensure the data isn’t used for “unapproved or unauthorized purposes.”
“Those Americans’ highly personal information may continue to be held by a third party outside of the IRS’s direct control — increasing the potential for exposure due to bad actors and other cybersecurity incidents,” [head of the committee] . Maloney wrote…. ID.me said on Wednesday that it would drop the facial recognition requirement in its software, which is used by 30 states and 10 federal agencies. The company also told The Washington Post that effective March 1, anyone would be able to delete their selfie or photo data….
The letter follows years of controversy over the government’s expanding use of facial recognition software, despite warnings from the General Services Administration that the face-scanning technology has too many problems to justify its use…. There is no federal law regulating how facial recognition can be used or how it should be secured….
Maloney also writes that 13 percent of ID.me users since June had struggled to use the software and were referred to customer service, where representatives would attempt to verify their identities over video chat. The letter says this underscores the “widespread issues related to the use of the nascent facial recognition technology.”
In fact, the Verge reports that “Internal documents and former ID.me employees say the company was beset by disorganization and staffing shortages throughout 2021, as shortcomings in the automated systems created tensions among the company’s workforce, particularly the human verification workers who have to step in when the algorithms fail.”
Current and former employees who spoke to The Verge paint a picture of a company described as being in “permanent crisis mode,” changing policies rapidly to keep up with fluctuating demand for its services and fight a slew of negative press. In particular, they say a lack of human review capacity has been a chokepoint for the company, leading to stress, pressure, and a failure to meet quality standards. It’s an unexpected challenge for a biometrics system that’s usually seen as automatic, pointing to the often-ignored workers needed to support automated systems at scale.
When the automated systems fail — ID.me says roughly 10 percent of users will need video chat assistance — it’s workers and subjects who are left to manage the consequences…. To keep up with demand, the company added 1,300 new employees between January and September 2021, including 500 to be based in a new office in Tampa, Florida, dedicated to customer support. But as adoption increased, so did complaints. A Vice report found dozens of complaints from applicants who said they had been locked out of unemployment benefits when ID.me’s verification service had failed to identify them. When the automated system failed, applicants often faced long wait times to reach human reviewers, according to the report — wait times that became even more burdensome and difficult to navigate for people without access to reliable internet connections….
Many staff were unhappy about the end of work-from-home policies, which were being phased out at the company at the same time as first the delta and then omicron variants hit the US. As in-office staffing levels rose, more ID.me employees began to contract COVID at work, sources said, in some cases taking whole teams offline at once.
One Id.me employee complained to the Verge that “In terms of worker treatment, it’s like the Amazon of identity protection.”
The article also notes that an ID.me video chat agent was terminated after engaging in “inappropriate conduct,” and while the company added new procedures to prevent this, “sources said that these quality checks have begun to fall by the wayside under the pressure of clearing through the backlog of video verification requests.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.