The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has decided to move towards technological advancement and announced a facial recognition feature for the verification of taxpayers’ identity.
This unleashed bipartisan backlash as lawmakers believe it could compromise the data of Americans.
Facial recognition software of IRS drew bipartisan backlash
For a long time, the IRS has been a victim of identity fraud where people claimed millions of dollars in tax refunds while impersonating others. Included in these frauds are the COVID relief benefits, which many people got using stolen identities.
This prompted the institution to introduce facial recognition services to avert this situation. In order to do that, the IRS has contracted with a private identity firm named ID.me.
The plan left Congress in shock. Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, claimed these facial recognition devices and algorithms have drastic impacts on people of color, minorities, women, and senior citizens.
Facial recognition technology remains virtually unregulated, so increasing transparency is crucial. I’m concerned about the impact on the millions of Americans who have already turned over their biometric data to a private company.https://t.co/YU8LUa383X
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) February 16, 2022
On the other hand, 15 Republican senators noted these facial recognition devices by the IRS will compromise the personal data of Americans.
Former DHS officials defended IRS decision to go technological
Contrary to the perception of lawmakers, Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary of policy at DHS, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, defending the decision of the IRS to rely on technology to avoid tax fraud.
He wrote facial recognition software used to be an instrument of racial discrimination, but now they are working fine.
While mentioning the statistics of a 2012 study, Baker noted back then, this software was used to detect white people’s faces correctly 95 percent of the time, while people of color got their faces detected correctly almost 90 percent of the time.
Doubling down on my defense of face recognition in a Washington Post op-ed.
Why you should want the IRS to use facial recognition technologyhttps://t.co/EqjSPU5gs3
— stewartbaker (@stewartbaker) February 18, 2022
Baker claimed this gap was bridged over the years; the 2018 data of the National Institute of Standards and Technology indicated these sorts of errors had been reduced by more than 50 percent.
He also stated raising concerns about privacy would also be a flawed approach to stop the technology, adding if the government collects facial data of people, it is just like showing faces on a daily basis to a random security guard.
The former DHS official claimed while there may be consequences of introducing facial recognition software, they are small, compared to the benefits which the system has to offer.
He suggested the government lost over $100 billion to COVID emergency frauds last year, which could have been averted, had the technology been in place.
Baker further wrote victims of tax fraud find on a daily basis that someone impersonated them to steal their money. Thus, this step would provide a sigh of relief to an average American.
Defending the algorithms further, Bakers stated even super-humans could not reach the efficacy of facial recognition algorithms, which makes them mandatory in this era of technology.