Maloney and Clyburn Launch Investigation into Use of ID.me Facial Recognition Technology in Public Services

Apr 14, 2022
Press Release
Oversight Committee and Select Subcommittee Raise Additional Concerns About Company’s Role in Undermining Unemployment Assistance During Pandemic

Washington, D.C. (April 14, 2022)—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to ID.me CEO Blake Hall, requesting documents and information related to the company’s contracts with federal, state, and local governments for use of its facial recognition technology.  The Chairs raised concerns with widespread issues related to ID.me’s services, including how ID.me’s technology may have undermined the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of unemployment assistance programs during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

“Both Committees have serious concerns about the efficacy, privacy, and security of ID.me’s technology—which you described as ‘complex and problematic’—being used to verify the identities of millions of Americans seeking to access essential government services.  We are therefore writing to request documents and information on ID.me’s contracts with public sector entities—which have rapidly expanded to include 10 federal agencies and 30 state governments—for use of facial recognition technology,” wrote the Chairs.

 

As the pandemic shuttered businesses nationwide forcing millions into unemployment, many states contracted with ID.me to expedite unemployment claims and help prevent fraud.  However, public reports indicate ID.me’s process undermined the effectiveness of unemployment programs.  ID.me’s requirements that applicants use email addresses and smartphone cameras may have barred Americans who lacked those resources from government assistance entirely, while long wait times for help calls kept others from receiving critical support for weeks on end.

 

According to reports, while ID.me has also benefited substantially from government efforts to prevent unemployment fraud, their own services prevented many Americans from accessing unemployment benefits they are eligible to receive.

 

“Less than two months after you made an initial public estimate of $100 billion in unemployment fraud in February 2021, ID.me announced that it had raised $100 million in funding from investors, and had increased the number of states it was partnering with from 15 to 22. A few months after you provided your $400 billion estimate to Axios, ID.me announced its receipt of yet another nine-figure round of financing and a $1.5 billion valuation due to the company’s “rapid growth,” in which it had “expanded or entered into new partnerships with 6 federal agencies and 27 states,” wrote the Chairs.

 

The letter also details information obtained in response to an inquiry launched by the Oversight Committee in February 2022, regarding use of ID.me technology by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which raised more questions regarding IRS’s ability to safeguard the biometric data of millions of American taxpayers and the costs associated with canceling its contract with ID.me.  Despite IRS’s announcement that it would transition away from the use of third-party facial recognition tools to verify users, IRS did not indicate any current plans to recoup any of the $86 million already spent for ID.me’s licenses.  Additionally, it appears that IRS will continue to rely on ID.me for identity verification technology and ID.me will continue to collect and retain biometric information of American taxpayers as IRS works “with GSA [General Services Administration] to resolve problems that prevent Login.gov from meeting the IRS’s needs.”

 

The Oversight Committee has long expressed concern regarding the oversight and regulation of facial recognition technology and its potential to discriminate against certain groups, such as people of color and women.  On May 22, 2019, the Committee held its first in a series of hearings on the matter.

 

Today’s letter requests ID.me provide documents and information by April 28, 2022.

Click here to read today’s letter.
 

117th Congress