The UK-based privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch has revealed that the British tax agency HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) has recorded the voice of over 5.1 million Britons.
The Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agency collected these voice records via the Voice ID service that was launched in January 2017. The service was created to allow UK citizens to authenticate when calling HMRC call centers using their voice.
When the service was initially launched, the tax agency claimed users would be able to opt out of using it and continue to authenticate themselves by using usual methods.
The Big Brother Watch group discovered that there’s no opt-out option when users call the agency support line.
Every citizen accessing the service recorded a voice track to use with the Voice ID authentication feature
“Far from ‘encouraging’ customers, HMRC offers no choice but to do as the automated system instructs and create a biometric voice ID for a Government database.” reads the Big Brother Watch.
“In our investigation, we found that the only way to avoid creating a voice ID is to say “no” to the system – three times – before the system resolves to create your voice ID “next time”.”
Advocated at the Big Brother Watch group claim the HMRC is outlaw because it doesn’t provide a clear way of opting out and because there is no way to ask the agency to remove voice track from HMRC’s database.
The Big Brother Watch filed freedom of information (FOIA) requests, but the tax agency refused to provide instruction to the users on how to delete their voice tracks from HMRC’s database.
Another aspect that is still under investigation is how the agency manages voice tracks and if it shares them with third-parties and government agencies.
It is clear that the that the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agency is not in compliance with the GDPR regulation that was adopted by EU member states.
Big Brother Watch officials are inviting Britons to file a complaint with the HMRC and with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), this latter already started an official investigation into HMRC’s process.
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(Security Affairs – Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs agency, privacy)