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UK tax agency voice biometric database surpasses 7 million but 160,000 opt out

UK tax agency voice biometric database surpasses 7 million but 160,000 opt out

More than 2 million voiceprints have been added to the database of the UK’s tax agency since June, but more than 160,000 people have opted out, asking HMRC to delete their voice biometric data, The Register reports.

Big Brother Watch investigated the HMRC Voice ID authentication service last year, and revealed that 5.1 million biometric voice records were created between January of 2017 and June of 2018, with no opt-out obviously available, and challenged the system’s legality. The Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating, and in the meantime the process has been changed to make it clear how users can opt out.

Previously, when users declined to repeat the phrase “my voice is my password,” which is typically associated with Nuance’s biometric services, the system insisted that they cooperate by prompting them with emphasis two more times. Now, with a clearer system, 162,185 people have chosen not to have their voice data stored.

“It is a great success for us that HMRC has finally allowed taxpayers to delete their voiceprints and that so many thousands of people are reclaiming their rights by getting their Voice IDs deleted,” Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo told the Register. “Now it is down to the ICO to take robust action and show that the government isn’t above the law. HMRC took millions of Voice IDs without taxpayers’ legal consent – the only satisfactory outcome is for those millions of Voice IDs to be deleted.”

“Our Voice ID system is very popular with millions of customers as it gives a quick route to access accounts by phone,” an HMRC spokesperson told the Register. “All our data is stored securely and customers can opt out of Voice ID or delete their records any time they want. Seven million customers are using this system and only a very small percentage of customers have chosen to opt out.”

If the numbers cited above are accurate, the percentage of customer who have chosen to opt out since June is 7.4 percent.

The Australian Tax Service, which had collected 3.4 million voiceprints as of early 2018, also uses Nuance technology.

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