The General Services Administration intends to significantly expand the use of the government’s secure login service, Login.gov, in the coming years, in accordance with new agency budget documents and performance targets.
And although the authentication and identity verification system does not currently use facial recognition, the budget documents indicate that Login.gov is “still exploring … how to address potential discrimination with facial recognition.”
The service’s ultimate goal is to be “the public’s only account for accessing government services online,” the budget documents say.
Government agencies require identity verification for sensitive government services, and information such as unemployment benefits and tax information must be offered online without compromising individuals’ sensitive information or opening the government to fraudsters.
The speed at which citizens can access these services and the speed and fairness of identity verification mechanisms installed at the front door of government services are also relevant.
The use of biometric markers to verify identities has been strongly contested. The IRS has recently faced privacy, fairness, and transparency issues regarding the use of facial recognition through ID.me, an identity verification company, from the public and members of Congress. of both parties.
In February, the agency announced that it would adopt Login.gov after the end of this tax season, and that new verification options that do not rely on facial recognition would be available for this tax season.
As for Login.gov itself, the new GSA budget documents also show that the agency is still weighing biometrics, as the agency told FCW in February.
“Login.gov explores… how to address potential discrimination through facial recognition,” says the congressional rationale document for the agency’s fiscal year 2023.
“While the Login.gov team is researching facial recognition technology and conducting equity and accessibility studies, the GSA has made the decision at this time not to use facial recognition, liveness detection or any other emerging technology in relation to government benefits and services until rigorous review has been conducted has given us confidence that we can do this fairly and without harming vulnerable populations,” said a GSA spokesperson told FCW.
Caitlin Seeley George, campaign director at Fight for the Future, a nonprofit digital rights group that has urged the IRS and now other agencies to walk away from ID.me and other services recognition software, says that while Login.gov’s current actions are a “sign that government agencies are taking the harms of facial recognition seriously and investing in alternatives”, the bottom line is that “this is why we we need legislation banning the use of facial recognition”.
“Whether it’s the GSA or Amazon, they can say they won’t use facial recognition, but to really protect people, we need a law in place, or else we’ll continue to playing mole whenever this technology appears in a new location, or whenever an entity changes its mind,” she continued.
As for Login.gov, the GSA is also setting goals to increase usage of the platform in the coming years.
At the end of fiscal year 2021, 221 government service apps were using the service, up from 83 in fiscal year 2020. The goal is to increase that number to 350 in fiscal year 2023.
The GSA also wants to more than double the number of annual active users from 16 million to 41 million.
As the GSA seeks to expand use of the service, the agency says it is also looking to “improve identity verification rates across a broader set of demographics, such as age, ethnicity and socio-economic status”.
Currently, the agency is also looking for a permanent director for Login.gov, which has had an acting director for more than two years.
The budget documents indicate that although Login.gov launched with multiple partners in fiscal year 2021 and plans further launches in this fiscal year, “it had to delay some launches because it did not have the capacity to support them in fiscal year 2021”.
The plan is to expand the team “in line with the exponential demand for identity verification services (and an ever-growing authentication user base)”.
The GSA also has goals for the service’s internal machinery, namely “expanding its suite of identity solutions to increase supplier diversity of vendor and government data sources.”
The agency wants to increase the number of vendors and government data source providers used on the platform from two to four. The agency’s budget documents say more sources “lead to greater identity verification accuracy, better user experience, and lower costs.”
The GSA is also implementing the nearly $187 million for the service allocated through the Technology Modernization Fund last fall.
This funding is going to be used for cybersecurity efforts and adding in-person options for identity verification, as well as “expanding the Login.gov environment by lowering the barrier to entry for agencies to enable Login.gov to scale usage to the next level.” percentage of citizen participation,” according to the budget documents.