Biometrics Information in the Workplace
Technology is everywhere around us, from our smart appliances to our healthcare records to the phone in your pocket right now.
We have refrigerators that tell us when we are out of milk and smartphone apps that let us know if we forgot to lock our back doors.
And now technology has infiltrated the workplace and is changing how human resources is done.
As one article explains, the most essential tools in most HR departments now are tech-based.
Biometric technology, for example, has made employee tracking so much simpler than in days past.
Biometric time clocks make tracking employee time so much easier and more accurate than the primitive time clocks that we are used to.
Even if your company has not yet implemented biometric technology, chances are that it is coming soon.
So what should companies and their HR departments know about biometrics in the workplace?
First of All, What is Biometrics?
Before we look too deeply into what your human resources team needs to know about biometrics, let’s take a look at exactly what biometric data is.
HR Technologist explains that “Biometric data is created from the physical or behavioral characteristics of an individual.”
Because this data is created from a person’s individual characteristics, it is quite accurate and detailed.
Biometric data can be gained from a person’s iris or retinal images, facial images, fingerprints, voiceprints, the geometry of their hand or ear, as well as DNA recognition, scent recognition, and the recognition of how you walk.
Biometric identifiers make tracking an employee much more accurate and secure.
Passwords, for example, can be changed or hacked, but a biometric identifier never changes.
You cannot fake out the biometric time clock, for example.
Susie in accounting can’t have her friend from down the hall clock in for her while she is out after lunch. Biometrics would make this impossible.
However, although these types of identifiers cannot be easily hacked, they also cannot be changed once they have been compromised.
What is Biometric Data Used For?
Employers all over the world are using biometric data to keep track of their employee attendance, productivity, and more.
They can see exactly how many hours a person was present at work, and how much time they spent working.
System logins can be controlled with biometrics.
Access to classified areas can be limited with biometric software technology, as can online access to sensitive data.
As more companies utilize the benefits of biometric data, more and more employees will be expected to provide the biological data needed to improve the security and accuracy of these systems.
Government regulations have been put in place to help protect the privacy of these employees and to be sure that this data is securely stored.
The collection, the use of, and the disclosure of this biometric data are governed over as outlined by BIPA.
Biometric Information Privacy Act
According to Wikipedia, the Illinois General Assembly passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, in October of 2008.
This act was designed to protect “against the unlawful collection and storing of biometric information.”
This was the first-ever law in which a state in the US regulated the collection of biometric information.
Similar laws have since been passed in other states, and more are expected to follow suit.
At present, however, the only state which has laws giving private individuals the right to sue for damages from a violation of these laws is still Illinois.
This does not necessarily mean that people in other states could not set precedence and sue.
According to BIPA, individuals who have been harmed by the leak of biometric information in such circumstances would be entitled to $1000 for each violation, and $5000 for each violation if it is proven that the violation was either due to recklessness or done on purpose.
In early 2019, it was decided that employees can file suit and be entitled to this compensation if the law’s requirements have been violated even if that employee was not harmed by this violation.
This has caused hundreds of lawsuits under this act.
What is Expected by BIPA?
According to the terms of BIPA, private companies that use this type of biometric information have to have a written policy which lays out the rules for the collection, storage, and destruction of this private information.
Any employee whose biometric information will be used must sign a written release as well as a disclosure that shows what information will be taken.
The company’s right to disseminate the biometric information is restricted by BIPA, and BIPA allows the employee to legally pursue action if that agreement has been violated, even if they suffered no harm from this violation.
BIPA also protects the consumer.
Biometric information such as facial recognition technology cannot be collected or shared without the consent of the consumer under BIPA regulation.
This led to a $550 million case that Facebook lost in January of 2020 which stated that Facebook’s facial recognition violated the Illinois law.
Facebook was said to have violated BIPA by generating templates of its users’ faces without their consent.
What Can You Do?
To protect your company and its employees, careful consideration should be done before deciding to use biometric information technology.
First of all, is it really a need that your business has?
Would it truly benefit your company?
If you decide to go with biometric technology, you will need to give advance notice to the employees that will be affected and get their written consent.
In your notice, you must include a description of how the data will be collected, used, stored, and shared.
Employees should be allowed to opt-out without facing penalties.
It is also vital that you stay aware of new laws and regulations in your state concerning biometric information technology in the workplace.
While this technology can make things a lot more accurate and simpler at work, it can bring in an array of security and privacy issues that your company may not be prepared for.
Staying on top of the latest news about biometrics laws and being careful to use only what your company needs can help protect you from future lawsuits and litigation.
For a free consultation contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.