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TalkTalk introduces voice recognition technology

Friday, March 18th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

TalkTalk has become the first UK telecoms provider to introduce voice biometric technology.

The provider, which was last year left reeling from a a data hack that cost it £60m, has introduced the technology, allowing its customers to access their accounts without handing over personal details.

Announcing the new system, called TalkSafe, the company said it is the first UK telecoms provider and first UK business outside the banking sector to roll out such technology to its customers.

It means that from now on, TalkTalk’s 4m customers can access their accounts over the phone using their voice as their password instead of handing over personal details to prove who they are.

The system uses the same voice biometric technology used by banks and identifies customers by analysing more than 100 unique characteristics of their voice, from the shape of their larynx, vocal tract and nasal passage, to their pronunciation, emphasis and the speed of their speech.

In October TalkTalk revealed that up to 21,000 unique bank accounts and sort codes, 28,000 obscured credit and debit card details, 15,000 customer dates of birth and 1.2m customer email addresses, names and phone numbers had been accessed.

Its latest quarterly results, released last month, revealed that the hack had lost the company an estimated 95,000 and cost it a total of £60m.

Announcing the launch of TalkSafe, the provider said it is part of a long-term strategy to make sure customers' data is as secure as possible.

TalkTalk said over time, voice biometrics will reduce the amount of sensitive personal information customers will have to hand out because when a customer calls, the advisor they speak to will only see if they are verified or not.

'Simple, secure'

The system is also hoped to reduce the time customers spend on a call. If callers are transferred between customer service advisors they won’t have to repeat their details, as the voice technology will have already verified their identity.

Tristia Harrison, TalkTalk’s consumer managing director, said: “We’ve listened to what our customers have told us about wanting a simple, secure service. TalkSafe is an important and exciting step on that journey.

“As the first UK telecoms provider to roll out voice biometrics as standard, we’re proud to be leading the way in making this advanced technology accessible to millions of homes across the country at no extra cost.”

When it revealed its quarterly results, TalkTalk CEO Dido Harding admitted it had been a “challenging quarter” that had been dominated by the cyber attack.

Following the breach, the company carried out a “forensic review” of its security arrangements, including its suppliers, which led to the arrest of three people in January at a call centre it uses in Kolkata.

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