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News | Published May 05 2019

HMRC to delete 5 million voice records

HMRC have been forced to delete five million voice files that were obtained without consent. 

As reported by the BBC, HMRC failed to get the necessary consent from individuals before they were signed up to a voice ID system for telephone enquiries. 

Because of this breach of privacy rules, they are having to delete all the files that they did not receive explicit consent to record.

In order to speed up their helpline, HMRC invited callers to use a recognition system, a quicker alternative to their usual security checks. 

The scheme was launched in 2017 and involved callers repeatedly stating “my voice is my password.” HMRC would then use an algorithm to match the caller’s voice with their tax records, confirming their identification.

The authority changed the way it sought permission to use this voice ID in October. The five million that did not give explicit consent were enrolled before this October switch and it is these files that are being deleted. 

The Information Commissioner has set a deadline of 5 June for this to be completed.

The scheme, however, was contentious and has been criticised by privacy campaigners as “biometric ID cards by the back door.”

Despite this most recent lapse, and the general criticisms of the system itself, HMRC have pledged to continue the system. 

Chief executive Sir John Thompson stated that “I am satisfied that HMRC should continue to use voice ID”, adding that “It is popular with our customers, is a more secure way of protecting customer data, and enables us to get callers through to an advise faster.” 


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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
@theparlreview
May 05 2019

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