ID.me facial recognition identity verification
ID.me is a Virginia-based company that works with a number of US government agencies to verify the identities of people using tax, unemployment, veterans affairs, and other services.
The company was dragged into the spotlight during 2021 for a series of accuracy and security issues with its facial recognition system, and for misleading marketing.
Unemployment identity verification
According to a June 2021 VICE/Motherboard article, unemployment beneficiaries in 22 US states experienced issues with ID.me's facial recognition system that is supposed to help prevent fraud.
The issue led to people being locked out of their unemployment accounts and not receiving the funds they are due. Many took to airing their complaints in public as they were unable to contact ID.me support staff.
ID.me CEO Blake Hall suggested to VICE that user error may have been to blame, and that the company had not been aware of 'eligible individuals' who had been unable to verify their identity.
IRS mandatory facial recognition
In November 2021, the US Inland Revenue Service (IRS) announced it will require taxpayers to use a selfie to verify their identity with ID.me before using some of the agency's online services.
Others voiced their concerns that facial information collected by the IRS collects could be reused without users’ knowledge. The company's service terms enable the company to share people’s data with the police, government, and 'select partners', stoking privacy concerns.
Early 2022, security researcher Brian Krebs highlighted a number of security issues with ID.me's identity verification system. Blake Hall later admitted in a LinkedIn post that ID.me uses a one-to-many facial recognition system that searches for individuals across multiple databases.
On February 7, 2022, the IRS announced it will stop using ID.me for verification purposes. In May 2022, a group of Democratic lawmakers urged the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate ID.me, claiming (pdf) that its CEO made misleading comments about how the company uses facial recognition.
COVID-19 unemployment fraud claims
In November 2022, the US House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the Committee on Oversight and Reform alleged (pdf) ID.me 'inaccurately overstated its capacity to conduct identity verification services to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)'.
The company also made 'baseless claims' of rampant COVID-19 unemployment fraud 'in an apparent attempt to increase demand for its identity verification services,' according to the Subcommittee.
Veterans disability payment lockouts
In February 2022, the Insider reported that hundreds of veterans and caregivers had been locked out of US Veterans Affairs services due to a variety of ID.me technological and customer support problems.
An Insider public record request revealed over 700 complaints about ID.me to the Department of Veterans Affairs from October 2021 to January 2022.
In January 2022, a coalition of digital rights groups including Fight for the Future, the Algorithmic Justice League and EPIC launched DumpID.me, a website that asks visitors to sign an online petition urging the IRS to stop using facial recognition technology.
New York unemployment benefit lock-outs
In June 2023, New York Focus reported that complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau show many applicants have had trouble using the platform’s facial recognition tool, stopping them collecting their unemployment insurance.
Operator: ID.me; New York Department of Labor; US Inland Revenue Service (IRS); US Department of the Treasury; US Department of Veterans Affairs; US Patent and Trademark Office; US Social Security Adminstration; US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Sector: Govt - welfare; Govt - tax
Purpose: Verify identity; Detect fraud
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Privacy; Security; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity
Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals; Marketing; Privacy
US House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (). Chairs Clyburn, Maloney Release Evidence Facial Recognition Company ID.me Downplayed Excessive Wait Times for Americans Seeking Unemployment Relief Funds
Ron Wyden (2022). Letter to Secretary of Labor
Joy Buolamwini, Algorithmic Justice League (2022). The IRS Should Stop Using Facial Recognition
ACLU, EPIC, et al (2022). Coalition Letter on Government Use of Facial Recognition Identify Verification Services
News, commentary, analysis
Published: February 2022
Last updated: June 2023