IRS will allow taxpayers to skip facial recognition after privacy backlash

The Internal Revenue Service said Monday that it will allow taxpayers to opt-out of using facial recognition software to verify their identity and access their online accounts as the agency tries to quell widespread backlash. 

"No biometric data — including facial recognition — will be required if taxpayers choose to authenticate their identity through a virtual interview," the IRS said in a statement.

Taxpayers will have the choice to verify their identity using a live, virtual interview with agents. No biometric data, including facial recognition, will be required if individuals choose to use a virtual interview to authenticate their identity. Users will also still have the choice to verify their identity automatically using biometric verification offered by third-party company, the IRS said. 

"For taxpayers who select this option, new requirements are in place to ensure images provided by taxpayers are deleted for the account being created," the agency said. "Any existing biometric data from taxpayers who previously created an IRS Online Account that has already been collected will also be permanently deleted over the course of the next few weeks.

The decision comes shortly after the IRS announced that it would "transition away" from using a third-party company,, to authenticate taxpayers' identities. 

Individuals would have been required to create an account with in order to log on to the IRS' website to access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, check online accounts, get their tax transcript, receive an Identity Protection PIN or view an online payment agreement.

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Although the IRS has stressed that individuals will not actually be required to go through or use facial-recognition software to submit their tax returns, taxpayers would have been forced to use this software in order to take advantage of some of the agency's most basic tools, prompting a widespread backlash from privacy advocates.

The decision would "only lead to further ruin for Americans when their data is inevitably breached," Jackie Singh, director of technology and operations at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, wrote on Twitter. She called the practice "very bad," and called on every "tech-aware American to fight it."