21 States Are Now Vetting Unemployment Claims With a ‘Risky’ Facial Recognition System

ID.me has rejected some legitimate claimants in addition to fraudsters

Dave Gershgorn
OneZero
Published in
5 min readFeb 4, 2021

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Illustration: Taylor Le

On January 25, California officials told the public that while the state had paid out $114 billion in unemployment benefits, auditors had found a problem. More than $11 billion of those payouts were fraudulent.

To address this, California officials hired ID.me, a 10-year-old startup, to ensure that every person who receives benefits is actually eligible. ID.me provides an app where users can upload pictures of their government documents, like a driver’s license and passport, as well as a selfie. The company says it will then use A.I. algorithms and facial recognition to authenticate the documents and compare ID pictures to the new selfie.

ID.me claims this system prevents $1 billion in fraud per week across the 21 states that already use the service for claims related to Covid-19. California has suspended 1.4 million unemployment claims under suspicion of fraud since it adopted the system. While 300,000 of those suspended Californians have been able to verify themselves, 1.1 million now have less than 30 days to do so through ID.me’s service.

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Dave Gershgorn
OneZero

Senior Writer at OneZero covering surveillance, facial recognition, DIY tech, and artificial intelligence. Previously: Qz, PopSci, and NYTimes.