IRS Backs Down on Facial Recognition System

IRS,, identity verification

The IRS won’t be going ahead with the use of a private facial recognition system to authenticate taxpayers’ identities for online accounts, responding to criticism over privacy concerns.

In a statement published Monday (Feb. 7), IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said 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.”

The IRS had been making use of to put on the service, which worked to verify peoples’ identities before opening online accounts and accessing their sensitive data, and planned to phase out other ways to access online accounts.

The agency reportedly did not plan for taxpayers to have to use the system to pay or file taxes, check refunds or check the status of amended returns. Rather, it has been part of an identification verification system that allows individuals to establish accounts on the IRS website, which can be used to check payment plans, look up records and access information about stimulus payments or child tax credits related to COVID.

Last week, several Senate Republicans objected to its use, saying this would be a detriment to personal privacy and cybersecurity.

In a letter, Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Rettig should stop using the program, adding that the government “can treat Americans with respect and dignity while protecting against fraud and identity theft.”

Last year, the IRS seized $3.5 billion in cryptocurrency in the fiscal year 2021, which made up 93% of the assets taken during the year, per an annual report.

See also: IRS Seizes $3.5B in Crypto in FY 2021

A third of the seizures came from just one case, stemming from the 2015 conviction of Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht on drug and money laundering charges, which the report said left a question of “where did the money go?”

The IRS reportedly found the money through examining bitcoin transactions and finding 54 that had gone undetected — the proceeds from illegal activity stolen in 2012 and 2013.