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New York Focus: New York’s Chosen AI Keeps Users from Collecting Unemployment

Signing up for unemployment benefits in New York should be a seamless process, but for many New Yorkers, it has been far from easy. After the implementation of ID.me, a private company that deployed facial recognition and a fleet of identity verification methods, there have been an influx of complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. NYLAG’s Ciara Farrell spoke with New York Focus about the difficulties New Yorkers are facing with the software.

“’I’ve [been] submitting a request for over 1 year now saying I need help unlocking my account because I have a new number,’ said one Brooklyn resident in June 2021 complaint to the FTC. ‘I have a daughter and will be put out by next month…’

“Still, critics argue that the state has essentially outsources its responsibilities to a private company that now has outsized influence over whether people receive their benefits – with limited avenues for holding the company accountable.

“Critics point out that facial recognition has significant accuracy problems, especially when it comes to people of color and women. Its platform can also be more difficult to use for people with certain disabilities, people who are older, and people who don’t have access to a computer. 

“ID.me hasn’t just confounded users trying to get benefits for the first time – it has also complicated access to existing benefits. During the second summer of the pandemic, some New Yorkers found their benefits suddenly stopped,’ said Ciara Farrell, a volunteer attorney with the Community Access Programs Unit at New York Legal Assistance Group.

“But problems persist. Some New Yorkers are learning that they now need to use the service to move forward with claims of identity fraud that they filed with the DOL several years ago,’ said Farrell.” 

Read the full piece by Rebecca Heilweil in New York Focus from June 16, 2023. 

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