PRIVACY CAMPAIGN GROUP Big Brother Watch has accused Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HRMC) of collecting 5.1 million taxpayers' biometric voiceprints without their consent.
HRMC launched its Voice ID service, which it touted as an "optional high-tech system to improve customer service", back in January 2017.
However, while it claims that users can opt-out at any time, an investigation by Big Brother Watch found that HRMC's self-assessment helpline "demanded" the creation of a Voice ID by repeating the phrase "my voice is my password".
While it found a workaround by barking "no" at the system three times, the group claims that by "misleading" users of the service, HRMC forcing people to be "railroaded into a mass ID scheme", which they say is in breach of data protection laws.
"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," Big Brother Watch said.
Further, FoI requests obtained by the group found that HMRC holds around 5.1 million voiceprints, essentially creating "biometric ID cards by the back door". It notes that HRMC has refused to disclose which other government departments the recordings have been shared with, how they are stored and used, or if it's possible to delete a voice ID.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Taxpayers are being railroaded into a mass ID scheme that is incredibly disturbing. The tax man is building Big Brother Britain by imposing biometric ID cards on the public by the back door.
"The rapid growth of the British database state is alarming. These voice IDs could allow ordinary citizens to be identified by government agencies across other areas of their private lives.
"HMRC should delete the five million voiceprints they've taken in this shady scheme, observe the law and show greater respect to the public."
Big Brother Watch added that it flagged the issue with the Information Commissioner's Office, which is now investigating HRMC's Voice ID scheme.
A spokesperson for HMRC, seemingly ignoring Big Brother Watch's concerns, said: "Our Voice ID system is very popular with customers as it gives a quick and secure route into our systems.
"The Voice ID data storage meets the highest government and industry standards for security." µ
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