For immediate release: January 29, 2022


Grassroots pressure from rights groups mounts as Treasury considers other options to controversial facial recognition tool

As the Treasury Department considers changes to its plan to require taxpayers to submit to facial recognition and biometric surveillance in order to access their accounts online, civil rights groups are increasing pressure on the IRS to abandon its plan entirely. Fight for the Future, along with Algorithmic Justice League, EPIC and a number of other organizations are launching a petition page where people can add their names to the demand that the IRS cancel all plans to subject taxpayers to facial recognition and that there be a full investigation into how and why the government decided to contract with

“The plan to use facial recognition on taxpayers was bad from the start, and as we learn more it only gets worse,” said Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director at Fight for the Future. “The good news is that the IRS is actually listening, but we can’t let up. We need to make it clear that no facial recognition is the only outcome that will actually ensure people’s privacy, security, and rights are protected.”

Since the IRS announced its plan about a week ago, privacy, civil rights, and justice experts have been forceful and relentless in their opposition. There has been widespread agreement that people should not have to submit their biometric information in order to access IRS information, and that the IRS should not be working with a third party to amass a database of sensitive information that would be a massive target for hackers.

In addition to the privacy and security concerns, this plan raises a number of problems with accessibility and accuracy that disproportionately impact certain communities. Facial recognition systematically fails to accurately identify Black and Brown faces as well as gender nonconforming people. In addition, using requires people to have smart phones or a quality web camera, which would exclude economically disadvantaged people as well.

“The real-world impact on marginalized communities will likely get worse because of the unchecked proliferation of facial recognition technologies generally,” said Dr. Joy Buolamwini, founder and Executive Director of Algorithmic Justice League, in a letter to the Biden administration. “These technologies are being deployed at an unprecedented rate across state and federal agencies. They are imposed on the public without sufficient public scrutiny, debate, or oversight, causing harm to the populous generally.”

On top of all the concerns with the IRS’ plan, there is the fact that has been lying to the public. On Thursday the CEO of the company had to publicly admit that their claims to only use one-to-one matching in their facial recognition was false, as they actually do use one-to-many matching (something the CEO himself said is “more problematic”).

In just over a week the IRS’ plan has completely blown up in its face. There is absolutely no reason the agency should push forward with this plan that is, in every way, a threat to millions of Americans and others who have to interact with the IRS. The only logical action from here would be for it to issue a statement that it is cancelling plans to use and any other facial recognition tool and just get ready for tax day.