For Million of Americans, Unemployment Benefits Require Facial Recognition Scanning
Millions of Americans “are being instructed to use ID.me, along with its facial recognition software, to get their unemployment benefits,” reports CNN. The software compares their photo ID with a selfie video they take on their phone with the company’s software — but some privacy advocates are concerned.
A rapidly growing number of U.S. states, including Colorado, California and New York, turned to ID.me in hopes of cutting down on a surge of fraudulent claims for state and federal benefits that cropped up during the pandemic alongside a tidal wave of authentic unemployment claims. As of this month, 27 states’ unemployment agencies had entered contracts with ID.me, according to the company, with 25 of them already using its technology. ID.me said it is in talks with seven more…
The company’s rapid advance at state unemployment agencies marks the latest chapter in the story of facial recognition software’s spread across the United States. It also highlights how this controversial technology gained a foothold during the pandemic and now appears destined to remain part of our lives for the foreseeable future…
Several ID.me users told CNN Business about problems they had verifying their identities with the company, which ranged from the facial recognition technology failing to recognize their face to waiting for hours to reach a human for a video chat after encountering problems with the technology. A number of people who claim to have had issues with ID.me have taken to social media to beg the company for help with verification, express their own concerns about its face-data collection or simply rant, often in response to ID.me’s own posts on Twitter… From ID.me’s perspective, its service is making it easier for a wide range of people to access essential government services, as it avoids the common practice of using information gleaned from data brokers and credit bureaus as a means of checking identities. The company said this lets it give a green light to those who don’t have a credit history, or may have changed their name, for instance — people who might otherwise have more trouble getting verified.
However, it doesn’t sit well with employee and privacy advocates and civil rights groups interviewed by CNN Business. They have concerns about the facial recognition technology itself and for the ID.me verification process’s reliance on access to a smartphone or computer and the internet, which may be out of reach for the people to whom unemployment dollars are most critical… ID.me said it does not sell user data — which includes biometric and related information such as selfies people upload, data related to facial analyses, and recordings of video chats users participate in with ID.me — but it does keep it. Biometric data, like the facial geometry produced from a user’s selfie, may be kept for years after a user closes their account… In March, ID.me announced raising $100 million in funding from investors including hedge fund Viking Global Investors and CapitalG, which is Google parent company Alphabet’s independent growth fund. With that funding round, ID.me said it was valued at $1.5 billion… “We’re verifying more than 1% of the American adult population each quarter, and that’s starting to compress more to like 45 or 50 days,” Hall said. The company has more than 50 million users, he said, and signs up more than 230,000 new ones each day.
CNN also quotes a man who complains the state never gave him an option. “If I wanted unemployment, I had no choice but to do this.”