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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Why the Prospect of the IRS Using Facial Recognition Is So Alarming

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A woman looking into a window is streaked with sunlight.

Even if you grant that the IRS use of the technology is appropriately limited, this could give other government agencies a way to get around existing regulations meant to rein in government powers.

Credit: Dollar Gill/Unsplash

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is planning to require citizens to create accounts with a private facial recognition company in order to file taxes online, in an effort to mitigate the risk of identity theft. This decision, however, has prompted a backlash, in part over concerns about requiring citizens to use facial recognition technology and in part over difficulties some people have had in using the system. The reaction has prompted the IRS to revisit its decision.

The U.S. stands at the edge of a slippery slope, and while that does not mean facial recognition technology should not be used at all, it does mean that the government should put more care and due diligence into exploring the terrain ahead before taking those critical first steps.

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