For the time being, Americans are still permitted to file tax returns by USPS mail service or by online e-filing. Last year, a press release from the IRS indicated the government might expect citizens to upload pictures or videos of their faces online by this summer to access personal files and records.
The IRS awarded a contract worth $86 million to ID.me, a digital software and security firm to facilitate the facial scanning requirement. The company is reportedly already testing its system that will require Americans to deal with ID.me’s identification protocols.
In December 2021, ID.me reported that it obtained over 60,000 digital files of face scans in a single day. It is not clear how many of the scans the company has obtained so far were uploaded by taxpayers. Still, there have been many complaints recorded regarding the identity verification process.
ID.me claims contractual relationships with 27 states, 500 private retailers, and several federal agencies. It says that its technology meets the “highest federal standards.”
The company also provides services for Lenovo, a Chinese tech company. The US federal government has also done significant business with Lenovo, even though the firm is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and sends confidential information to China’s intelligence forces.
It remains to be seen how requiring facial scans to access tax and financial records will adapt to wide-scale applications throughout the country. Older Americans are likely to have technological deficiencies in managing another monstrous federal bureaucracy’s website interface. Limitations many citizens have with internet access will also lead to user functionality problems.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), one of the most progressive and leftist members of Congress, called the IRS plan to work with ID.me a “very, very bad idea” that will harm the privacy rights of Americans. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said that he is “very disturbed” by the idea of having Americans submit to a facial recognition system.
The Senate Finance Committee is reportedly scheduling meetings to address public concerns about the proposed system. It remains to be seen if Americans will accept yet another colossal government intrusion into their fundamental privacy rights, especially one that comes wrapped in a system virtually guaranteed to be a technological nightmare to use.