Taxpayers Demand HMRC Deletes Voice IDs

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Over 160,000 UK taxpayers have demanded that the HMRC delete biometric voice recordings collected without their informed consent.

Big Brother Watch has been running a campaign into the tax office’s use of a voice identification system, first launched in 2017.

Having captured biometric data on millions of taxpayers, the system is now linked to “one of the largest known state-held voice databases in the world,” the group claimed.

However, this has come at the expense of user privacy.

The group revealed last year that when individuals called HMRC’s tax credits and self-assessment helplines they were automatically required to create a voice print.

The opt-out option was not immediately obvious — the only way users could follow this route was apparently by saying “no” three times.

The ICO is now investigating whether HMRC broke the GDPR by failing to obtain explicit consent from users, that is “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.”

“It is down to the ICO to take robust action and show that the government isn’t above the law,” Big Brother Watch said in a statement.

In the meantime, large numbers of taxpayers are exercising their right to erasure under the new data protection law.

The HMRC is also said to have changed the system so as to offer callers a clear opt-out should they wish.

However, over seven million users are currently enrolled in the scheme, which the tax office claims is a quick and easy way to authenticate and access accounts over the phone.

“All our data is stored securely and customers can opt out of Voice ID or delete their records any time they want,” it said.

The news was released, appropriately enough, ahead of the EU’s Data Protection Day today, an event designed to raise awareness of privacy issues among users and businesses.

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