This post is an update. Read the original post here, the first addendum here, and the second addendum here.
We have previously reported on the announcement by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) that it would require filer’s biometric data through ID.me, and its subsequent announcement that it would postpone the initial effective date upon which identity verification was to be required. Since then, concerns about ID.me and government use of facial recognition software have only grown. On April 14, 2022, House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney co-wrote a ten-page letter to Blake Hall, the chief executive of ID.me, requesting detailed records addressing issues with efficacy, privacy and security as well as more information about its contracts with federal, state and local governments. This reflects the concerns lawmakers and equity and privacy advocates have over the use of facial recognition software. The letter notes that, in 2021, nearly 15% of adults in the U.S. did not own smartphones and 23% did not own a computer, creating gaps among older and low-income individuals who can’t access the government assistance they need most. The letter also cites to studies showing that Black and Asian women face chances of misidentification up to 100 times higher than white men with facial recognition systems like the one ID.me employs. Although the USPTO indicated in its March announcement that it would announce a new deadline for requiring identity verification, the backlash against ID.me, including concerns about lack of accessibility and the potential for data leaks, may stall or block agency attempts to integrate biometrics. As it stands, there is little understanding of how the technology works or how it should be regulated, coupled with questions about what will happen to the millions of images and data already uploaded to ID.me’s servers. This is an ongoing issue, and one which Lutzker & Lutzker is following closely for trademark registrants and applicants.