ATO records 30,000 voiceprints in biometric authentication rollout

More than 30,000 Australians have registered their 'voiceprint' with the Australian Taxation Office as the agency completes the rollout of its new voice biometric authentication system.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) now claims more than 30,000 "voiceprints" from individuals who have opted in to use its new biometric authentication system.

The ATO's voiceprint system creates a digital representation of the sound, rhythm, physical characteristics, and patterns in an individual's voice, and the organisation expects the introduction of the system to help cut down on identity theft while also doing away with the requirement for password- and answer-based verification systems.

The ATO has been quietly rolling out its new voiceprint system over the past couple of months, announcing in August that it had introduced the biometric authentication service in order to use voice identification to verify some Australian taxpayers for some of its phone services.

Although initial trials of the system were announced as early as May, the ATO announced this week that it has launched the new voice authentication system, revealing that more than 30,000 people have opted in for the service in the past two weeks.

"In the last fortnight, over 30,000 Australians have already chosen to use our voice verification technology. It is a more efficient and secure service to the community," said second commissioner Geoff Leeper in a statement.

"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."

The ATO said that Australians contacting the agency by phone would now be given the choice to record a short voiceprint that can be used to verify their identity for future calls.

An ATO spokesperson told ZDNet that the voice authentication system is currently available to individuals calling on their own behalf or on the behalf of another entity, such as an individual or a company.

"Future releases will support individuals acting in their role as an intermediary, for example a registered tax agent," the spokesperson said.

The general launch of the ATO voiceprint system comes as the Australian government moves to roll out more than 60 departure eGates throughout the country's eight major international airports, with the new system set to employ facial biometric technology to identify travellers.

The rollout, which the government claims is part of its AU$158 million commitment to additional funding for counter-terrorism immigration and border protection, will see the eGates implemented nationwide from mid-2015.