What Do Managers Need To Know About Employee Biometric Data?

Employees are staring to worry about what will happen with their data
Employees are staring to worry about what will happen with their data
Image Credit: jakub

Managers are aware that the modern workplace is having technology added to it every day. The new technologies that companies are using includes things like fingerprint and facial scanners. Every time that a worker gets scanned, more and more data about that worker is collected by the company. What is starting to happen is that workers are becoming aware of the enormous amount of data about them that the company is collecting. Workers are starting to go to court to challenge the company in regards to how their biometric data is being stored and used. What manager skills does a manager need to have in order to know about what is going on?

The Collection Of Biometric Worker Data

So why the big fuss? This all started when workers in Illinois sued their company because of the biometric data that they were collecting from them. The state’s Supreme Court ruling created the most stringent privacy law that now protects this type of information. The reason that the workers had sued their company was because they said that they were not being told what would happen to their data and that they believed that it was being put at risk.

So why the sudden increase in the use of biometric devices? Companies are more and more using such tools to verify employee work hours and to check workers into and out of facilities for security reasons. Currently approximately 6% of companies are using biometric tools to track their employees. The problem that managers are now running into as they collect this data is that the legal safeguards that are used to govern how companies deal with all of the sensitive biometric data that they are collecting are inadequate. Company policy has not been able to keep up with how fast technology has been moving. None of us have any manager training that tells us what we are supposed to do to help our team members feel better about their data that is being collected.

There are some workers who don’t see the need to use biometrics in the workplace. They don’t believe that they work in a secretive place. This causes them concerns because they have not been told how their data will be stored or how it will be used. Under the Illinois ruling, companies that are collecting biometric data have to first obtain worker consent. Next, they have to notify their workers about why and how their data will be both used and stored and how long it will be stored for. The Illinois law restricts companies from selling their biometric data without the consent of their workers.

What The Future Holds For Biometric Data

What are the workers so scared about? If a company sold its biometric data to another firm, that firm could use the biometric data to track people in order to market to them. Alternatively, this kind of personal information could be used to create what are being called “deepfakes” which are artificial, but highly realistic, renderings of people. Workers can change things like social security numbers if they become compromised, but they can’t change their biological markers. If they lose control of it, then it will be gone forever.

The use of biometric data is not just limited to how companies keep tabs on their employees. Since the tools have become available, companies have started to use them to also manage how they interact with their customers. Especially at financial firms, biometric tools are being used to match a customer’s unique vocal patterns in order to accurately identify them over the phone. These firms feel that incorporating biometrics into their security procedures will allow them to more securely serve their customers.

Managers need to understand that their company’s problems with biometric data don’t necessarily have to be solved by them. Instead, they can work with the companies that make the biometric products to solve the storage and usage problems. One company that makes a fingerprint tracking system has started to store fingerprints as a long encrypted numerical string instead of an image of a fingerprint. Companies are now also allowing their employees to request that their data be deleted instead of having the company store the data forever. Biometric systems are probably here to stay, managers just need to make sure that their companies know how best to use them.

What All Of This Means For You

On top of all of the other things that managers have to worry about, it turns out that the arrival of new technology in the workplace has placed even more things on the table in front of us. When our companies start to use biometric tools to identify workers, it also means that they are now capturing a great deal of personal information about their workers. Managers need to understand what is being captured and how workers feel about this.

Workers at companies in the state of Illinois were concerned about what was being done with their personal information and so they sued their company. The workers won in court and new restrictive rules were put in place in Illinois. Companies are using biometric devices to check when employees are working and to permit access to secure areas. The problem is that there are no firm rules on how the collected biometric data is to be governed. Some workers don’t think that biometric equipment is necessary. In Illinois, companies have to discuss what they are going to do with the collected data with their workers. Collected biometric information could be used to emulate a person. Companies are also using biometric tools to identify customers. One way to solve this problem is for the makers of the biometric tools to do a better job of protecting the data that they are collecting.

I think that we all have to agree that biometric tools are here to stay. What managers are going to have to do is to work with their companies to find ways to deal with employee’s concerns. Do some team building and make sure that everyone knows what biometric data is being collected, how long it is being stored, and what can be done with it is a good place to start. Managers who make sure that their teams are fully informed about this important issue will then be able to move on and worry about other things.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How long do you think that a company should store biometric data that it has collected about its employees?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you are a manager and you have an opening on your team, what do you do? If you are like most of us your HR department is going to come to you and ask that you create a job description so that they can go post it and see who applies for it. This is the way that we’ve always done things. However, it has not always worked out all that well. The wrong people apply for jobs or, even worse, too many people apply for an open position. Something has to change. Managers have to learn how to write job descriptions.