In a major turn of events, embattled identity verification company ID.me says it will make facial recognition verification optional for all of its public sector government partners. Additionally, starting March 1, the company says all ID.me users will be able to delete their face scans.
That reversal comes just one day after the Internal Revenue Service said it would scrap ID.me’s facial recognition service for users trying to access online IRS services amid an outpouring of criticism from civil liberty groups and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers.
“We have listened to the feedback about facial recognition and are making this important change, adding an option for users to verify directly with a human agent to ensure consumers have even more choice and control over their personal data,” ID.me Founder and CEO Blake Hall said in a statement.
In the past, ID.me users would submit a face scan to verify their identity against a government document. If ID.me’s system failed to validate that scan, the users would then join a recorded video call with an ID.me representative called a “Trusted Referee.” Moving forward it appears that all ID.me users attempting to access public sector government partners will be able to use a similar human identity verification method without first submitting a face scan. In some cases, users can also opt for an in-person verification if the relevant agency has opted into ID.me’s offline option.
“ID.me is an identity verification company, not a biometrics company,” the company said in its press release.
The change comes as multiple privacy groups, including Fight for the Future and the American Civil Liberties Union, have called on other government agencies to follow the IRS’s lead and abandon ID.me’s facial recognition service.
Though the policy change will likely come as welcome news to some who expressed criticism over ID.me’s use of biometrics, other privacy experts like like the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn remained sceptical.
“This is too little too late,” Fox Cahn told Gizmodo. “If ID.me agrees that facial recognition is too invasive for some customers, why can’t they agree it’s wrong for all Americans? And if they had this alternative option all along, why did they rely on biometric tracking to begin with?”
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.
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