Treasury reconsiders IRS use of facial recognition amid privacy concerns

The company recently garnered controversy after it disclosed its use of one-to-many facial matching.

Alexander Drago / reuters

The Treasury Department is reconsidering the Internal Revenue Service’s use of for access to its website, according to Bloomberg. A department official said the agencies are exploring alternatives to the controversial facial recognition software, though that official didn’t specifically cite the privacy concerns around for the decision.

“The IRS is consistently looking for ways to make the filing process more secure,” Treasury Department spokesperson Alexandra LaManna told Bloomberg. “We believe in the importance of protecting the privacy of taxpayers, while also ensuring criminals are not able to gain access to taxpayer accounts.”

Citing a “lack of funding for IRS modernization,” LaManna also said it’s been “impossible” for the agency to develop its own in-house identification solution, and noted US taxpayers aren’t required to file their taxes online. Toward the end of last year, the IRS began requiring individuals to use to access certain parts of its website, including those sections related to services like the American Rescue Plan. Starting this summer, the agency will also require that people enroll with before they can file their taxes online. That’s a process that will require taxpayers to provide their government ID, a copy of a utility bill and a video selfie to the Virginia-based company.

The Treasury Department’s decision to reevaluate its use of comes in the same week that the company disclosed its use of one-to-many facial matching. Blake Hall, the CEO of, said the company employs the technology to verify selfies tied to government programs that are frequently targeted by organized crime elements. Hall made the statement after previously claiming the company did not use the “more complex and problematic” one-to-many approach.

Privacy advocates have criticized both approaches. Research indicates most facial recognition systems struggle to identify people with darker skin tones. Experts have also voiced concerns about the security risks of storing biometric data.