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Facial Recognition Failures Are Locking People Out of Unemployment Systems

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Todd Feathers writes in Vice:

People around the country are furious after being denied their unemployment benefits due to apparent problems with facial recognition technology that claims to prevent fraud.

Unemployment recipients have been complaining for months about the identity verification service ID.me, which uses a combination of biometric information and official documents to confirm that applicants are who they claim to be. The complaints reached another crescendo this week after Axios published a “deep dive” article about the threat of unemployment fraud based on statistics provided to the outlet by ID.me.

Some unemployment applicants have said that ID.me’s facial recognition models fail to properly identify them (generally speaking, facial recognition technology is notoriously less accurate for women and people of color). And after their applications were put on hold because their identity couldn’t be verified, many should-be beneficiaries have had to wait days or weeks to reach an ID.me “trusted referee” who could confirm what the technology couldn’t.

On Twitter, there are dozens of complaints about ID.me per day, and local news articles all over the country have detailed the problem over the course of months. In California, 1.4 million unemployment beneficiary accounts were abruptly suspended on New Year’s Eve and the beneficiaries were required to re-verify their identity using ID.me, a process which many found difficult and resulted in them waiting for weeks to reactivate their accounts while they struggled to make ends meet.

In Colorado, benefit recipients who had no problem establishing their identity before ID.me took over were suddenly rejected and went months without receiving the payments they were eligible for.

The story is similar in FloridaNorth CarolinaPennsylvaniaArizona, and many other states.

ID.me CEO Blake Hall told Motherboard that the company’s facial recognition technology does one-to-one matching—comparing one face against a picture of that same face (from a driver’s license, say)—whereas other applications of facial recognition attempt to find a match for a face in a large dataset of faces, known as one-to-many matching.

“The algorithms used for Face Match operate ~99.9% efficacy,” Hall wrote in an email to Motherboard. “There is in fact no relationship between skin tone and Face Match failure on a 1:1 basis” according to a regression analysis the company performed.

That doesn’t mesh with the experiences being shared on Twitter by people like Tim Weaver, a gig economy worker in Las Vegas who was suddenly cut off from his unemployment benefits in late March after ID.me failed to identify him.

Weaver told Motherboard that when he attempted to pass ID.me’s facial recognition test he held a phone in front of him in the instructed position but “it rejected it, didn’t give us a reason, just rejected it. It rejected it three times, and then it locked me out of the system.”

Weaver said he attempted to contact the company’s customer support through its chat feature, which claims to provide assistance 24-hours a day, seven days a week. He tried numerous times at all hours of the day. He tried contacting the state of Nevada for help, but the employees there directed him back to ID.me.

This went on for several weeks, Weaver said, until he tweeted a scathing criticism of the company, which then reached out and—after several more frustrating days—verified Weaver’s identity.

Weaver went for three weeks without receiving his benefit. “I couldn’t pay bills,” he said. “Luckily I had enough food saved up so I didn’t have to worry about that. It’s just ridiculous.”

In his statement to Motherboard, Hall said that facial recognition failures are not a problem with the technology but with  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

This is bad, and the company is taking no responsibility. Welcome to dystopia.

Written by Leisureguy

18 June 2021 at 1:13 pm

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