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ID.me’s travails are a problem for the biometrics industry

ID.me’s travails are a problem for the biometrics industry

ID.me’s repeated self-congratulations about the intercepting billions in attempted fraud against U.S. state and federal governments do not appear to be improving its tarnished public image.

The big question now is how many bruises will the face biometrics community share with ID.me after this, the company’s latest government contracting controversy.

Thursday, the biometric ID verification firm was accused by two teams of congressional investigators of overstating, by orders of magnitude, fraud losses suffered by Covid relief programs run by the federal and state governments.

Executives have said losses totaled $400 billion. The company, which some feel has not substantiated its claim, says government accusations about any overstatements should wait for the result of a federal audit, according to Reuters reporting.

ID.me executives are still strategizing to get past multiple questions about their company’s data security, privacy policies, operations, technology and motivations.

Doubt hangs over the company’s government work making many moves seem odd, at least. In April, ID.me fired 39 employees on its fraud-review team. Reuters said the move cut about half of the team.

Besides the vendor’s claim of rampant fraud, government officials are looking into reports that aid applicants’ selfies could not be verified with biometric systems 10 to 15 percent of the time, according to Reuters. In those cases, people were told to use a video call, but wait times for the call were hours long, on average.

There were questions about whether ID.me could infer the citizenship of people trying to interact with the Internal Revenue Service, and how widely personal data collected by ID.me could be shared around the government.

Prior to this week’s concern about ID.me, its previous high point in controversy also involved the IRS.

Early in 2022, the company and the IRS were accused of requiring taxpayers to submit to facial recognition systems to pay their taxes. The accusation was false. Government officials do not care how taxes are paid, only that they are paid and on time.

But the controversy was handled poorly by the vendor and the IRS, and suspicion of biometric identification grew. As it will probably grow after the alleged over-estimation.

The government and media are not the only sources angina for ID.me executives, either.

The Atlantic in January published an opinion piece by Joy Buolamwini, a specialist in algorithmic bias in facial recognition, about the need to be wary about “ID.me’s face-based biometric technology.”

Jay Meier, senior vice president of North American operations for ID.me competitor FaceTec, went on LinkedIn to offload some frustration with the company.

“These guys have hurt our industry in several ways and in big ways,” Meier wrote.

Very shortly after that post (but not necessarily in reaction to it), ID.me CEO Blake Hall made his case in the same venue.

The list of people publishing their worries about ID.me is growing.

Most are industry insiders. Outsiders, when they turn to this situation, will only focus on facial recognition.

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