In Brief

HMRC records taxpayer ‘voiceprints’ without consent

Big Brother Watch accuses HMRC's Voice ID system of creating back-door biometric ID cards

Millions of British taxpayers have had their voices recorded, analysed and stored by HM Revenue and Customs without their consent.

According to Big Brother Watch, HMRC’s Voice ID system has collected more than five million audio signatures, which have been used to create “biometric ID cards by the back door”, the privacy group claims.

Callers are asked to repeat the phrase “my voice is my password” to register for the scheme. This is then used to confirm their identity when managing their taxes.

HMRC says the service had proved “very popular with customers”  since it was introduced last year, and has helped speed up security procedures and improve access to its digital services.

However, Big Brother Watch said taxpayers were being “railroaded into a mass ID scheme”, as they were not given the choice to opt out.

The group’s director, Silkie Carlo, described the scheme as “shady” and warned: "These voice IDs could allow ordinary citizens to be identified by government agencies across other areas of their private lives”.

HMRC could also fall foul of the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force last month and requires all organisations to obtain explicit consent from users before they use biometric data, “including voice recordings”, to identify someone, says the BBC.

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