Australian Tax Office has collected 3.4 million voiceprints as government embraces biometrics

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has collected voiceprints from 3.4 million Australians, or one in seven citizens, to authenticate their identity in interactions with its call center of mobile app, Computerworld reports. The number represents an increase of 500,000 enrollments in the past six months.

The technology is provided by Nuance, and compares 140 speech characteristics to a stored voiceprint when the caller repeats the phrase “In Australia my voice identifies me” to generate a confidence score. The system has been used to verify more than 4.8 million interactions since it was launched to the call center in 2015 and the ATO app in 2016, according to Computerworld. It has reduced the average inquiry handling time by 48 seconds.

Voiceprints from the database could be shared with other government agencies, with user consent, the ATO has said, and the Department of Human Services currently uses it to identify citizens calling its Centrelink.

The ATO privacy policy says the database “may in the future become a whole of government voiceprint database.” The Australian government’s Digital Transformation Agency is currently developing the GovPass identity verification platform, which could eventually incorporate the voice authentication system.

As previously reported, the Australian legislature is also considering legislation to create a national facial recognition system for use by all levels of government.

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