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Downwind of IRS decision to back off biometric authentication: More change

Downwind of IRS decision to back off biometric authentication: More change

An event as significant as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service distancing itself from biometric identifier vendor ID.me was bound to have wide repercussions, and it has: imitators and new product pitches.

The IRS this month backtracked on requiring taxpayers to surrender biometric information ID.me’s platform if they want an online account. Opponents of the requirement, including privacy advocates and some members of Congress, said it was unnecessary and too much of a risk for taxpayers.

This week, officials in Massachusetts’ unemployment assistance agency said they are following suit with their ID.me platform. They say the requirement was needed when pandemic claims and related fraud soared.

State officials do not tie the decision to the pressure put on the IRS. Instead, now that the numbers are falling, biometric identifiers are no longer needed, they said, according to the Boston Herald.

It is not known how much fraud was caught using facial recognition and other biometrics.

The Department of Labor estimates that one in every 10 dollars paid out in unemployment insurance has gone astray over the last 18 years. Based on that data point, according to the department, about $87.3 billion was pilfered from funds made available in the pandemic-relief Cares Act.

And, not unexpectedly, ID.me is touting new services. One, Human in the Loop, does not address fraud or even privacy. It promises “equitable access to digital services,” something that no public-service administrator will ignore.

The service is related to the vendor’s video chat verification team, and is designed to insert ID.me employees (or, more likely, contractors) to work dealing in real time with an agency’s users who get tangled in ID card or selfie verification.

TransUnion does not have a new product, but it is certainly pitching its biometrics-free identity proofing and risk-based authentication services to government agencies.

As for the IRS, it will keep its two-year contract with ID.me, which will offer taxpayers wanting an online account without submitting biometric data the option of live video service.

Agency officials, at the direction of opponents to biometric authentication for basic government services, are also turning to the use of the federal government’s non-biometric login.gov service.

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