The General Services Administration won’t use facial recognition to grant users access to government benefits and services for now, but its secure sign-in team continues to research the technology.
“Although the Login.gov team is researching facial recognition technology and conducting equity and accessibility studies, GSA has made the decision for now not to use facial recognition, liveness detection, or any other emerging technology in connection with government benefits and services until rigorous review has given us confidence that we can do so equitably and without causing harm to vulnerable populations,” said Dave Zvenyach, director of TTS, in a statement provided to FedScoop.
“There are a number of ways to authenticate identity using other proofing approaches that protect privacy and ensure accessibility and equity.”
Login.gov ensures users are properly authenticated for agencies’ services and verifies identities, and the Technology Transformation Services team that manages it is also studying facial recognition equity and accessibility.
GSA‘s methodical evaluation of the technology contrasts with that of the IRS, which announced Monday that it would transition away from using ID.me‘s service for verifying new online accounts after the company disclosed it lied about relying on 1:many facial recognition — a system proven to pose greater risks of inaccuracy and racial bias.
Login.gov currently collects a photo of a state-issued ID and other personally identifiable information, which are validated against authoritative data sources. The last step involves either sending a text message to the user’s phone number or a letter to their address containing a code that must be provided to Login.gov to complete identity verification.
More than 60 applications across 17 agencies — including USAJOBS at the Office of Personnel Management and the Paycheck Protection and Disaster Loan Application programs at the Small Business Administration — use Login.gov, encompassing more than 17 million users.
GSA’s rejection of facial recognition for Login.gov was first reported by The Washington Post, but the technology is most certainly in the agency’s, and the government’s, future.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is crafting an Artificial Intelligence Bill of Rights to protect people from technology infringements and focused its initial request for information on biometrics like facial recognition.
While OSTP’s definition of biometrics needs refining, not all facial recognition algorithms are prejudicially biased. Technical and operational bias also exist and don’t necessarily lead to inequitable outcomes.
“There are not direct correlations between technical and operational biases and prejudicial bias,” Duane Blackburn, science and technology lead at MITRE‘s Center for Data-Driven Policy, told FedScoop in January. “Even though in a lot of policy analyses they’re treated as equivalent.”