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IRS ordered 7 million Americans to sign up for facial scanning service

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee wants to know if the agency will order to destroy biometric data and how much it will cost to terminate the contract.

The IRS directed 7 million Americans to facial recognition provider before abandoning plans to make the service mandatory this week, raising new concerns about the security of records already sent to the company. IRS officials confirmed the scope of the program during a Feb. 4 briefing with House Oversight Committee staff, according to a letter from committee chair Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.). In that letter, Maloney said the briefing raised concerns about "the continued impact on the millions of Americans who have already turned over their biometric data to a private company." IRS abandons facial recognition plan after storm of criticism In the letter, Maloney also pressed IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on plans to instruct the vendor,, to destroy biometric data and how the agency will ensure does not use the data to “unapproved or unauthorized purposes”. ”

"The highly personal information of those Americans may continue to be held by a third party outside of the direct control of the IRS, increasing the potential for exposure due to bad actors and other cybersecurity incidents," he wrote. The letter follows weeks of controversy over the program, which would have required anyone who wanted to access tax-related records online to record a video of their face using their computer or smartphone. The IRS announced Monday that it was abandoning those plans amid backlash from members of Congress and privacy advocates. said Wednesday that it would remove the facial recognition requirement in its software, which is used by 30 states and 10 federal agencies. The company also told The Washington Post that starting March 1, anyone will be able to delete their selfies or photo data. collects a lot of data in addition to facial scans. The scammers still found a way around it. Maloney wants answers about how the IRS will oversee these steps or how it may affect the agency's record retention process. He also expressed concern that the IRS "change of course" on his two-year, $86 million contract could negatively affect taxpayers. He asked Rettig how much money had already been spent on the contract and how much it would cost to terminate it. The letter follows years of controversy over the government's growing use of facial recognition software, despite warnings from the General Services Administration that facial-scanning technology has too many problems to justify its use. In 2019, House lawmakers held hearings on the impact of technology and the ways it can discriminate against women and people of color. There is no federal law that regulates how facial recognition can be used or how it must be secured.

"This technology remains largely unregulated, and increasing transparency and accountability is crucial," Maloney wrote. On Tuesday, six Republican senators said they would introduce a bill that would bar the IRS from requiring taxpayers to submit facial scans or other biometrics. Maloney also writes that 13 percent of users since June had trouble using the software and were referred to customer service, where representatives would attempt to verify their identities via video chat. The letter says this highlights "widespread problems related to the use of nascent facial recognition technology."

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