March 3, 2022

Big Brother:

Call your office!


Editor’s note: Mr. Ardmore, TLD’s Raconteur Extraordinaire Correspondent, reports on another story extraordinaire that — Spoiler Alert! — probably won’t amount to much. Mr. Ardmore spends his limited free time compiling a database of stories about regressive politicians defending the Bill of Rights. The following is not one of them.

REAL THREAT or trial balloon? You be the judge. The IRS announced in November 2021 that it would be developing and implementing a new ID process for people who wanted to sign in to the agency’s website. This not only included a lot of personal data but also would require a biometric face scan. And the process would take only 17 simple steps to complete. (Of course, you could call the IRS. Ha, ha, ha.) One small step for the IRS, one giant step for Big Brother? Or is this just a test run to soften up Citizens for a subsequent encroachment on privacy? Maybe, but some of the regressives are responding negatively, such as space cadet Rep. Ted Lieu of California, though it’s not clear whether this is because incorporating selfies into our IRS database files is moving us further onto the slippery slide or merely racist and sexist, and teeters perilously along the “Digital Divide.”

Lieu tweeted on January 27, 2022: “This is a very, very bad idea by the IRS. It will further weaken Americans’ privacy. And facial recognition is less accurate for darker skin individuals. The IRS needs to reverse this Big Brother tactic, NOW.” No word on whether Lieu has called, is calling, or will call for reversing other Big Brother tactics; but I digress.

Lieu followed up his tweet with a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Chuck Retigg, February 7, 2022, jointly signed by reliable regressive Representatives Anna Eshoo, Pramila Jayapal, and Yvette Clarke:

We write to you with great concern regarding the IRS’s plan to employ face recognition software requiring millions of Americans to have their face scanned by a private contractor.... Americans will be forced to put sensitive data into a biometric database, which is a prime target for cyberattacks.... [T]he cybersecurity risk with the IRS’s plan is far greater: millions of Americans use the IRS website annually for a variety of vital functions, and, as a result, each of them will be forced to trust a private contractor with some of their most sensitive data.... Aside from the cybersecurity risk, the accuracy and bias issues of face recognition systems disproportionately impact people of color. [This is amplified later in the letter to include “risks that face-recognition technology poses to women and people of color.”] ... Millions of Americans either do not have access to reliable broadband or smartphones and computers. How are they expected to access vital IRS resources?
And finally, the IRS is implicitly accused of failing to “consult with ... stakeholders in the civil rights and civil liberties communities.”

So the regressives’ concern is not really about Big Brother at all. It boils down to:

1. This is being done by a “private contractor.” Presumably if it were being done by Big Brother himself / herself, accompanied by assurances that cyber threats would be deal with by the full faith and credit of the regime, all would be well.

2. There would be an even larger risk to Americans if this database were cyberattacked. But, Big Brother having access to this data = good; private or foreign cyberattackers having access to this data = bad. Private firms are inherently cyberattack-susceptible, while the feds’ lapses are ... uh, easier to cover up under the cloak of national security.

3. Facial recognition is inherently racist and sexist. Since everything is systemically racist and related by intersectionality, one wonders why one would even bother mentioning this.

4. The ever-present “digital divide” disenfranchises millions, who would be left in the lurch by the new privately generated IRS ID scheme. However, one might ask how the new IRS plan would cause people (probably mostly women and people of color) without iPhones and broadband to be any worse off than they are now?

5. “Stakeholders” may not have been consulted. I know I wasn’t, but when I hear the word “stakeholders,” I put on a suit of armor since we all know where that stake is aimed. For politicians, “stakeholders” has the additional meaning of “possible voting blocs that I might attract to donate and vote for me.”

To the conspiratorially minded (Edward Morrison Morley take note!), Point 4 may be THE POINT. Unless Congress gets off the dime and passes whatever current Dumbocrat bill or bills started out under the umbrella “Build Back Better,” which include billions to end the “digital divide,” then women and people of color will continue to be disenfranchised, be deprived of their voting rights, be forced to feed their grandparents dog food, have to stock up on rusty coathangers for back-alley abortions, and be obliged to continue using flip phones. The Horror! The Horror!

It is interesting that though the IRS had made this program known in November, the media only got around to discussing it in February. Thus this CBS News report, February 7, 2022, on the Lieu, et al. letter. Possibly doesn’t become news until some lefty whines about it. The silver lining is that — at least temporarily — some of the regressives are on record as sort of defending liberties of some sort. Better 1/100th of a loaf than none at all. Maybe.

And in later-breaking news: The IRS “announced on Monday, February 21, that it would no longer require taxpayers to take a video selfie or provide other biometric data when verifying identity and signing up. This move came after the backlash over using ID.me’s facial recognition services to verify the identities of the users. Initially, users were required to upload ‘video selfies.’” Hooray! Oh Frabjous Day! Lovers of Freedom rejoice! Well, sort of: “However [these “howevers” will get you every time], the IRS login will still require taxpayers to use ID.me to register for an online IRS account. Instead of a video selfie, they will be required to first complete a live online interview with an ID.me representative before completing the registration process.”

Way more convenient for the beleaguered taxpayer and far less intrusive (assuming they don’t take a selfie of you during the “interview”).

Sample interview questions:

“Have you ever contributed any sum of money to terrorist truckers?”

“Are you now or have you ever been a subscriber, reader, or (gasp!) contributor to The Last Ditch?”

“Have you ever voted for Vladimir Putin or anybody who looks like him or been lumped together with him in any way, correctly or falsely?”

“Do you even know where peace-loving, democratic Ukraine is?”

“What is / are your bank account number(s) in case we want to freeze any or all of them?”

However, it may be that the IRS’s newfound interest in not violating your privacy is that they have realized that they cannot compete on the world stage with Vladi Putin and Justin Trudeau. (NOTE TO ED.: Yes, I realize that these Putin references are likely to get the cyberwarfare guns of the Russkies turned on you, but you should have realized that when you took the John Peter Zenger Oath.) Oh, and about that stage thing: let us recall the immoral words of Billy Shakespeare (AKA the Earl of Oxford):

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. Ω

March 3, 2022

Published in 2022 by WTM Enterprises.

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