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HMRC deletes 5m voice recordings after breaking GDPR rules

HMRC deletes 5m voice recordings after breaking GDPR rules

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has agreed to delete five million voice recordings used to create biometric IDs as they fall foul of the GDPR rules concerning consent.

The IDs were used to speed-access its phone lines but were created before the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

HMRC told the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it would retain 1.5 million Voice IDs but delete the five million where explicit consent was not received or where those people had never used the system since creating the ID.

I have informed ICO that we have already started to delete all records where we do not hold explicit consent and will complete the work well before ICO’s 5 June 2019 deadline. These total around five million customers who enrolled in the Voice ID service before October 2018 and have not called us or used the service since to reconfirm their consent.

- Sir Jonathan Thompson KCB: Chief Executive, HMRC

Sir Jonathan said that HMRC would continue to use Voice ID because it was ‘popular with our customers.’ He said it was a more secure way of protecting customer data and enabled HMRC to get callers through to advisors a lot faster than without it.

In 2018 the digital freedom pressure-group Big Brother Watch investigated HMRC’s Voice ID and its use of voice as a password system. Under a Freedom of Information request it found that HMRC was acquiring users to the service without their consent.

Consequently, Big Brother Watch launched a formal complaint to the ICO stating that taking callers’ Voice ID without their consent was a breach of data protection rights. This they said was forcing biometric IDs on the UK by the back door and created one of the largest known state-held voice databases in the world.

This is a massive success for Big Brother Watch, restoring data rights for millions of ordinary people around the country. To our knowledge, this is the biggest ever deletion of biometric IDs from a state-held database.

This sets a vital precedent for biometrics collection and the database state, showing that campaigners and the IOC have real teeth and no government department is above the law.

- Silkie Carlo: Director, Big Brother Watch

Following Big Brother Watch’s campaign HMRC’s automated helpline now asks callers whether they wish to opt out or in to their Voice ID scheme. Big Brother Watch claimed that following this 162,185 opted out and deleted their Voice ID.

Image: Big Brother


A veteran freelance journalist writing extensively on internet news and cybersecurity.
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