UK Tax Authority Under Fire Over Use of Voice Biometrics

“The HMRC, for its part, has responded to the criticism by noting that registration in its voice authentication system is voluntary, that identifying information is stored separately from the voice templates…”

UK Tax Authority Under Fire Over Use of Voice Biometrics

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the UK’s equivalent of the IRS, is coming under fire from at least one privacy rights group over its use of voice biometrics.

The organization has been allowing citizens to access their accounts by phone with voice recognition, thanks to technology that appears to have been provided by Nuance Communications, given that end users authenticate with the company’s standard phrase, “My voice is my password.” But a privacy rights organization called Big Brother Watch has criticized HMRC for not allowing users to opt out of the system, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has opened an investigation.

Big Brother Watch also threatened to pursue legal action against the UK’s Home Office and the London Metropolitan Police earlier this month over their use of facial recognition in public surveillance.

The HMRC, for its part, has responded to the criticism by noting that registration in its voice authentication system is voluntary, that identifying information is stored separately from the voice templates, and that the ‘Voice ID’ system is “very popular with customers”, according to a spokesperson. The system’s failure to allow individuals to opt out, however – if that that is indeed the case – could mean that it runs afoul of the recently implemented General Data Protection Regulation for the European Union, which could in turn subject the HMRC to heavy penalties from EU authorities.

Sources: BBC News, Gizmodo

June 26, 2018 – by Alex Perala