Distributive policy

Privacy activists hope IRS policy change will lead to facial recognition legislation

Privacy advocates hope their recent victory over the IRS will mark a change in the ongoing battle over facial recognition. The IRS originally announced it would mandate biometric identity verification through ID.me for people accessing online accounts, but backtracked in response to intense criticism from lawmakers and the general public.

The Algorithmic Justice League, Fight for the Future, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the ACLU are some of the many organizations claiming partial credit for this finding. Civil rights activists collected signatures for a petition asking the IRS to stop using facial recognition on the DumpID.me website. They also organized extensive letter-writing campaigns to lobby federal lawmakers and all government agencies using the technology.

There is now evidence to suggest that these efforts are starting to pay off. The IRS is still pushing ID.me at this time, although it has promised to continue offering support for non-biometric identity verification options and to implement the non-biometric Login single sign-on platform. .Gov of the federal government at the end of the current tax season.

Other agencies are now following suit, with the Massachusetts Unemployment Assistance Department saying it will end its use of ID.me in the coming weeks. The Department was one of dozens of state unemployment agencies that adopted ID.me to combat unemployment fraud during the pandemic, and although the agency says the platform was useful for that purpose , she now feels that the threat has passed and that there is an opportunity to re-evaluate her use of facial recognition technology.

The story is similar at the federal level, where the US Patent and Trademark Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs are both reconsidering their relationship with ID.me. Meanwhile, letters to Congress prompted 15 Republican senators to raise concerns (and ask deeper questions) about the ID.me and IRS program, while Senators Roy Blunt and Jeff Merkley introduced a bill which would prohibit the agency from using any form of facial treatment. acknowledgement. Algorithmic Justice League founder and executive director Joy Buolamwini sent a separate letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The magnitude of this response has given privacy advocates reason for optimism. Many city governments have implemented local bans, but efforts to legislate facial recognition have yet to gain traction on Capitol Hill. The pushback against the IRS indicates momentum is finally building for national privacy protections.

“This is one of many important victories to come, and I think everyone really needs to ask themselves, ‘What kind of society do we want to live in? Do we want the face to be the final frontier of life? private?” asked Buolamwini. “What excites me is that the answer is not set in stone. It’s up to us.”

The goal, for civil rights advocates, is to stop the use of facial recognition technology before it becomes normalized. This will be much easier said than done, especially given the proliferation of facial recognition systems in the public and private sectors.

Source: CNN Business

March 8, 2022 – by Eric Weiss