Says It Will Make Facial Recognition Optional for Government Agencies

The major reversal comes one day after the IRS ended its use of's facial recognition service and amidst an outpouring of public pushback.

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In a major turn of events, embattled identity verification company says it will make facial recognition verification optional for all of its public sector government partners. Additionally, starting March 1, the company says all users will be able to delete their face scans.

That reversal comes just one day after the Internal Revenue Service said it would scrap’s facial recognition service for users trying to access online IRS services amid an outpouring of criticism from civil liberty groups and a bipartisan collection of lawmakers.

“We have listened to the feedback about facial recognition and are making this important change, adding an option for users to verify directly with a human agent to ensure consumers have even more choice and control over their personal data,” founder and CEO Blake Hall said in a statement.


In the past, users would submit a face scan to verify their identity against a government document. If’s system failed to validate that scan, the users would then join a recorded video call with an representative called a “Trusted Referee.” Moving forward it appears that all users attempting to access public sector government partners will be able to use a similar human identity verification method without first submitting a face scan. In some cases, users can also opt for an in-person verification if the relevant agency has opted into’s offline option.

“ is an identity verification company, not a biometrics company,” the company said in its press release.


The change comes as multiple privacy groups, including Fight for the Future and the American Civil Liberties Union, have called on other government agencies to follow the IRS’s lead and abandon’s facial recognition service.

Though the policy change will likely come as welcome news to some who expressed criticism over’s use of biometrics, other privacy experts like like the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn remained skeptical.


“This is too little too late,” Fox Cahn told Gizmodo. “If agrees that facial recognition is too invasive for some customers, why can’t they agree it’s wrong for all Americans? And if they had this alternative option all along, why did they rely on biometric tracking to begin with?” found itself in the hot seat several weeks ago after Hall revealed the company, in some cases, was using a more expansive type of facial recognition technology than previously known. Lawmakers began speaking out against the IRS’ relationship with last week, beginning with a letter sent by Republican senators on the Finance Committee, who called on the IRS to cut ties with


“The decision millions of Americans are forced to make is to pay the toll of giving up their most personal information, biometric data, to an outside contractor or return to the era of a paper-driven bureaucracy where information moves slow, is inaccurate, and some would say is processed in ways incompatible with contemporary life,” the senators wrote.

Days later, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden wrote his own letter to the IRS commissioner urging the IRS to end its use of facial recognition which he described as “unacceptable.” Within hours of Wyden’s letter, the IRS issued a statement saying it would transition away from using’s facial recognition.


Now, the path forward remains murky at best. In an email to Gizmodo, ACLU Racial Justice Project Staff Attorney Olga Akselrod welcomed’s announcement, but said but there were still many questions left unanswered.

“States still need to procure the offline options and it’s not entirely clear how’s offline option will work or what it entails,” Akselrod said. “We don’t yet know what extra hoops people who opt out of biometrics will have to jump through, what notice people will have about deletion, or when the company will release more information about what its 1:many video search involves.”