Menu Close was touted by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a crucial tool in combating unemployment insurance fraud, and the system was credited with being a huge help in doing just that.

Newsom touted at a September, 2020, news conference where he detailed the findings of his strike team, a blue-ribbon group he created to recommend ways to make EDD more can verify someone’s identity by having them take a photo or video of themselves. That is then digitally compared to the documents in their application.

He said the program would allow people “to do selfies, to provide additional verification in ways that we think could substantially, not exclusively, no one’s naive, but substantially mitigate fraud.”

But now, reports that California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office is urging lawmakers to take another look at And, under pressure from Washington lawmakers and others, is saying it will offer alternatives to the controversial facial recognition system.

The analysts said Newsom and his unemployment insurance strike team’s use of was warranted during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, “when the magnitude of the claims backlog called for prompt and decisive action.”

In California, has proven an important way of reducing fraud and making the overwhelmed unemployment system more effective, the analyst’s report found.

“Setting up automated identity verification substantially sped up EDD processes so benefits could be paid promptly during the pandemic,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office said in its report. The system “likely also reduced fraud in the temporary federal programs.”

But, the analyst’s report said, “Now that this critical period has passed, we recommend the Legislature pause and carefully consider the implications of requiring third-party biometric scanning -in this case, facial recognition performed by artificial intelligence.”

The state’s Employment Development Department, which manages the unemployment program, declined to comment. Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D- Los Angeles, who chairs a budget subcommittee on state administration that plans a hearing on EDD Tuesday, did not respond to a request for comment.

And key members of Congress have expressed concern.

Facial recognition should not be a prerequisite for accessing unemployment insurance or any other essential government services,” wrote Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D- Oregon, and Sens. Sherrod Brown, D- Ohio, and Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., in a letter this week to Labor Secretary Martin Walsh.

“It is particularly concerning that one of the most prominent vendors in the space,, not only uses facial recognition and lacks transparency about its processes and results,” they said, “but frequently has unacceptably long wait times for users to be screened by humans after being rejected by the company’s automated scanning system.”