News : Australian Taxation Office Uses ‘Voiceprint' Technology
Sept 11, 2014 -- Taxpayers can expect to get through to the Australian Taxation Office call centre quicker thanks to a new automated voice authentication system for identity checks.
The ATO hopes the new system will shave up to 45 seconds off each of the calls it receives every year.
Dubbed "voiceprint", the ATO has already enrolled about 30,000 people to use the new service, which asks taxpayers to repeat a phrase to prove their identity.
The new system verifies that the voice matches the voiceprint originally enrolled with a particular tax file number. It also checks what was said to provide an added layer of security.
In addition to saving time, the ATO said the new system also reduced the need for clients to quote details from ATO correspondence, thus cutting the number of clients who fail proof-of-record-ownership checks because they do not have a document with them when they call.
The voiceprint verification is done prior to a caller being connected to an operator. If it matches, the operator does not need to ask for additional details such as name, address and date of birth.
"For people who call us regularly, voice verification will speed up the authentication process and cut the time they need to spend on the phone to the ATO," second commissioner Geoff Leeper said. The phrase the system asks people to repeat is: "In Australia my voice identifies me."
Security expert Ty Miller, of Threat Intelligence, said if the new system used speech recognition – what is said – combined with voice identification – how it is said – then it was fairly secure.
But he recommended that the phrase should change, to prevent people attempting to record it. The malicious person would still need the user's tax file number, but he said this could be socially engineered by tricking users to hand it over.
In developing the new system, the ATO said it engaged with other organisations that have implemented voice biometrics, including the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department.
The technology behind the system is being provided by Optus under the ATO's existing managed network services contract. It is supplied by Nuance Communications under a subcontract arrangement between Nuance and Optus.
If a taxpayer no longer wants to be enrolled for voice authentication, ATO staff can delete their voiceprint.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Australian Taxation Office:
The Australian Taxation Office is the Government’s principal revenue collection agency, and is part of the Treasurer’s portfolio. Their role is to manage and shape tax, excise and superannuation systems that fund services for Australians.
Published: Friday, September 12, 2014
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