Tysons-based ID.me makes selfie identification optional for government agencies

Two days after the Internal Revenue Service said it would transition away from using facial recognition for taxpayers to access certain IRS documents online after a wave of privacy complaints, Tysons, Virginia-based ID.me said it would make the use of “selfies” optional for all of its government clients.

ID.me won an $86 million IRS contract for its identification verification services last year. The company counts a total of 10 federal agencies as customers for its services, as well as 30 state agencies and more than 500 retailers.

ID.me said it now offers a new option to verify identity without using automated facial recognition and will make it available to all public sector government partners.

“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,” said ID.me founder and CEO Blake Hall.

ID.me will also allow existing users to delete their selfie or photo account beginning March 1, Hall said.

Government agencies using ID.me can now offer users an upfront choice to verify with a human agent, including through video chat, or in person.

Last month, before the IRS’ decision to phase out facial recognition, ID.me, one of the D.C.-area’s fastest-growing companies, announced it would hire an additional 750 employees, including video chat agents, to meet increased demand related to tax season, as well as unemployment claims, health care and financial services organizations.

In announcing its decision to drop facial recognition for access to certain IRS documents, the agency’s commissioner, Charles Rettig said: “The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously and we understand the concerns that have been raised. Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition.”

ID.me says it has 70 million users and more than 145,000 new subscribers join daily, double its growth rate a year ago. Its platform creates a login and identity credentials that move with individuals, instead of separate verification services used by individual companies.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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