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ICO calls on HMRC to delete all unlawfully collected voice data

ICO calls on HMRC to delete all unlawfully collected voice data

The Information Commissioner’s Office has found that HMRC has breached the General Data Protection Regulation and called on the office to delete unlawfully collected voice data.

  • Staff Reporter
  • May 08, 2019
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Following an ICO investigation into HMRC’s Voice ID service, prompted by a complaint from Big Brother Watch about the department’s conduct, the authority has called on the HMRC to take immediate action and remedy the security breach. 

The ICO's investigation focused on the use of voice authentication for customer verification on some of HMRC’s helplines since January 2017. It found that HMRC failed to give customers sufficient information about how their biometric data would be processed and failed to give them the chance to give or withhold consent.

This is a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation, the ICO said. 

It noted that it will issue its final enforcement notice this week, giving HMRC 28 days to completely delete all relevant records. 

The ICO initially issued a preliminary enforcement notice on 4 April, stating its initial decision to compel the department to delete all biometric data held under the Voice ID system for which it does not have explicit consent. 

"We welcome HMRC’s prompt action to begin deleting personal data that it obtained unlawfully. Our investigation exposed a significant breach of data protection law – HMRC appears to have given little or no consideration to it with regard to its Voice ID service," Steve Wood, ICO deputy commissioner, said.

"Innovative digital services help make our lives easier but it must not be at the expense of people’s fundamental right to privacy. Organisations must be transparent and fair and, when necessary, obtain consent from people about how their information will be used. When that doesn’t happen, the ICO will take action to protect the public."

The ICO’s investigation was carried out under the GDPR, new rules that came into force last year. Under the GDPR, biometric data is considered special category information and is subject to stricter conditions.

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