New legislation would ban IRS from using facial recognition software on taxpayers
Rep. Bill Huizenga says IRS shouldn't be trusted with sensitive biometric information
EXCLUSIVE: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would be barred from using facial recognition software on taxpayers under new legislation introduced Friday in Congress.
Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., authored the bill after learning more about the IRS' plan to require users of its online tax payment system to provide a selfie to a third-party company in order to access their accounts.
"It shouldn't be legal," Huizenga told FOX Business in an exclusive interview announcing his bill.
Huizenga raised concerns about the sensitive data being vulnerable to hackers and expressed distrust in the IRS after the agency targeted conservative groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating tax-exempt status.
"Every page we turned on it, it was like red flag going up after red flag," Huizenga said of the facial ID plans. "I just don't trust them with this information in that 1) I don't think they're going to be able to keep it secure and 2) I don't trust them with what they will then do with the information."
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Huizenga is not alone in his concern. Democrats and privacy advocates alike raised alarms after the IRS announced its facial ID plans with the third-party vendor ID.me that reportedly has a $86 million contract with the IRS.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, tweeted last month he was "very disturbed" by the facial recognition plan and called for greater transparency from the IRS.
Responding to criticism, the IRS said recently it is exploring alternatives to ID.me.
Under the plan, beginning in summer 2022, users who need to log on to the IRS' website to access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, check online accounts, get their tax transcript, receive an Identity Protection PIN or view an online payment agreement will need to create an account with ID.me.
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"Identity verification is critical to protect taxpayers and their information," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement last month. "The IRS has been working hard to make improvements in this area, and this new verification process is designed to make IRS online applications as secure as possible for people."
The IRS has stressed that individuals will not be required to go through ID.me or use facial-recognition software to submit their tax returns. But taxpayers will still be forced to use this software in order to take advantage of some of the IRS' most basic tools. The agency is already urging taxpayers to create accounts "as soon as possible."
Users must provide ID.me with an email address, Social Security number, photo ID and take a selfie with a camera that will scan the user's face to verify their identity.
A Treasury spokesperson declined to comment Thursday to FOX Business when asked for details on the ID.me contract.
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Huizenga, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, aims to gain bipartisan support for his IRS legislation and hopes a ban on facial recognition technology will become a provision in the appropriations process.
"I'm optimistic," Huizenga said. "I mean if we can get Ron Wyden and myself agreeing on something, that's pretty good."
FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.