Democratic lawmakers want FTC to investigate controversial identity firm ID.me

They believe the company may have mislead the public about its facial recognition technology.

Sponsored Links

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) speaks during a hearing with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai before the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2021.  Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS
POOL New / reuters

A group of Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate ID.me, the controversial identification company best known for its work with the Internal Revenue Service. In a letter addressed to FTC Chair Lina Khan, the group suggests the firm misled the American public about the capabilities of its facial recognition technology.

Specifically, lawmakers point to a statement ID.me made at the start of the year. After CEO Blake Hall said the company did not use one-to-many facial recognition, an approach that involves matching images against those in a database, ID.me backtracked on those claims. It clarified it uses a “specific” one-to-many check during user enrollment to prevent identity theft.

Following that statement, the IRS began to distance itself from ID.me, announcing it would reconsider its use of the platform in late January. It subsequently began allowing taxpayers to authenticate their identity without the use of facial recognition. But as the letter points out, many state and federal agencies continue to require Americans to submit photos and documents to ID.me before they can access vital services, including unemployment insurance.

“Americans have particular reason to be concerned about the difference between these two types of facial recognition,” the senators write of ID.me’s turnaround, noting a one-to-many approach inevitably means millions of people will have their photographs “endlessly” accessed. “Not only does this violate individuals’ privacy, but the inevitable false matches associated with one-to-many recognition can result in applicants being wrongly denied desperately-needed services for weeks or even months as they try to get their case reviewed.”

In making the statements it did, the group is asking the FTC to determine whether ID.me committed “deceptive and unfair business practices.” The company already faces an investigation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee. In a statement it shared with Bloomberg, ID.me declined to comment on the specific concerns mentioned in the letter from Senator Wyden. Instead, the company pointed to its track record of preventing unemployment fraud.

“ID.me played a critical role in stopping that attack in more than 20 states where the service was rapidly adopted for its equally important ability to increase equity and verify individuals left behind by traditional options,” the company said. “We look forward to cooperating with all relevant government bodies to clear up any misunderstandings.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Popular on Engadget