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IRS’ gutsy move: Plug in Login.gov at the last minute for ID verification

IRS’ gutsy move: Plug in Login.gov at the last minute for ID verification

Could it be that U.S. governmental verification service Login.gov is ready for its closeup with the Internal Revenue Service?

Federal IT trade publication FCW says the IRS is getting ready to launch Login.gov, the U.S. government’s ID verification service, now, during the final weeks of this tax-preparation season.

Login.gov, single sign-on software created by the U.S. General Services Administration, is being used in some other agencies, but the program has a special relationship with the tax collector.

Login.gov has a fairly vanilla purpose – to make it easier, faster and more secure for citizens to log into government services.

Yet it has not found anything close to universal success.

In fact, the IRS had declined to use it until now, choosing instead to contract with biometric identifier ID.me last year. What followed was a reputation disaster for the government and the vendor. It did not do much good for face biometrics, either.

Some in the public viewed the move as forcing taxpayers to submit face scans to a company most did not know in order to interact with a department many adults in the United States already view with trepidation. Privacy advocates questioned how secure government-mandated biometric data would be in a vendor’s hands.

No welcoming parade is planned for Login.gov to the IRS.

A U.S. government watchdog claims that the General Services Administration misled the agencies they serve by not telling them about instances of noncompliance in the Login.gov program.

And, according to reporting by FCW, there is significant concern that kicking the service into gear for that agency just before the April deadline for filing tax returns is a dubious plan.

According to government Slack messages that FCW says it has seen, moving the IRS to Login.gov has been discussed internally since at least last June.

Another controversy is not what the federal government needs as it tries to make services for the public more secure and easy to access.

Struggling with that project is common to countries without national ID systems, according to a report from former UK Government Digital Service DG Kevin Cunnington published by the Global Government Forum.

Three of Cunnington’s 21 recommendations for government digital transformation shortcuts revolve around digital identity. He says governments should focus on adoption over policy, let citizens control their own data, and provide a “single source of truth” for important data.

In the meantime, he warns, “countries without national ID systems – including large economies with advanced digital sectors, such as the USA, UK and Canada – are struggling to get beyond the vertical transformation of individual services and into the sweet spot: the horizontal transformation of government, with data flowing between departments to link up services around the user.”

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