It wasn’t long ago that voice technology was seen as a bit of a fad. Yet millions of us are still barking orders at Alexa and Siri and more and more companies are catching on. Businesses are beginning to turn our reliance on voice recognition technology into the next step of customer identification. But exactly how safe is it?
So long, PINs and passcodes
The Guardian reported that banks and the taxman are abandoning passwords and complicated security questions and choosing voice recognition instead, arguing it’s popular with customers. Some go so far as to suggest that spoken commands could replace contactless in the shops.
HM Revenue & Customs has so far signed up about 6.7 million people to its voice identification service and HSBC claims it has more than 10,000 people registering each week. Other big names such as Halifax, TalkTalk and Lloyds Bank are also letting people access their accounts through their voice. Voice biometrics are faster and easier to use, but we could be jumping the gun when it comes to security.
I’ll take your word?
A voiceprint is as unique to an individual as a fingerprint, including more than 100 unique physical and behavioural characteristics of an individual, such as length of the vocal tract, nasal passage, pitch, accent and so on. Yet there have been some concerns around the large-scale harvesting of voiceprints.
It’s not hard to believe that in this day and age, there is technology out there that can create a very convincing imitation of your voice. If a criminal has fragments of you speaking on, for example, a YouTube video or podcast, technology can piece together a very accurate imitation. It can then verify a caller’s ID by comparing their voice to the voiceprint the company has stored in its database. However these concerns aren’t stopping companies implementing the technology in a bid to keep ahead of their competitors when it comes to customer experience.
HSBC embarked on a major rollout in 2016, with almost 1.5 million customers so far signed up. HSBC has said the new system has significantly cut the amount of telephone fraud, with almost 8,000 attempts identified and more than £200 million of customer funds protected.
In many ways, voice recognition technology does seem the likely next step for customer identification, but when it comes to trumping PINs and passcodes, let’s not speak too soon…