The General Services Administration (GSA) is planning to facilitate a research study on the impact different demographic features have on remote identity proofing technologies – like facial recognition.

According to a Federal Register notice from GSA’s Transformation Technology Services published on Sept. 20, “Equity Study on Remote Identity Proofing” will assess how both biometric and non-biometric proofing checks perform across various demographic groups.

GSA will submit a request to review and approve the research study to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

“Participants will test several remote identity proofing services and respond to survey questions to gather demographic information related to the study,” the notice said.

The study will be based on a framework published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on digital identity guidelines. GSA is working with outside vendors to conduct the study.

The agency will engage the American public to participate in the study, and participants will share their demographic information like race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, educational level, and other demographic data. They will also collect personally identifiable information including name, date of birth, physical address, state ID number, Social Security Number, phone number, and a picture of the participant’s face.

GSA will analyze the failures and successes of the technology and explore the causes behind negative or inconclusive results. The agency will release the research findings in a peer-reviewed publication.

“These results will help GSA understand the current technological barriers to equitable identity-proofing services for the public,” the notice said.

The agency is requesting public comments until Nov. 21 on whether the collection of this information is necessary, and ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected.

GSA’s study on facial recognition equity comes after many grievances from The Hill on the technology, its privacy implications, and its overall ethics.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.