Home Tech Leisure centers remove biometric systems to monitor staff amid UK data watchdog crackdown

Leisure centers remove biometric systems to monitor staff amid UK data watchdog crackdown

0 comment
Leisure centers remove biometric systems to monitor staff amid UK data watchdog crackdown

Dozens of companies, including national leisure center chains, are reviewing or withdrawing facial recognition and fingerprint scanning technology used to check staff attendance after clampdown by the UK’s data watchdog .

In February, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered a subsidiary of Serco to stop using biometric data to monitor staff attendance at the leisure centers it operates and also issued stricter guidelines on the use of facial recognition and fingerprint scanning.

He ICO discovered that The biometric data of more than 2,000 employees had been illegally processed in 38 centers managed by Serco Leisure to verify their attendance using facial recognition technology and, in two cases, fingerprint scanning systems.

The ICO gave Serco three months to bring its systems into compliance and has said it will be fully compliant within that period.

In light of the ICO’s decision, other leisure center operators and companies are reviewing or ceasing to use similar biometric technology to monitor staff attendance.

Virgin Active, the leisure club operator, said it had removed biometric scanners from 32 of its sites and was working on an alternative for staff. “We are working on this as a priority and the change has already been communicated to all clubs,” he said.

Several companies supply biometric technology to help monitor staff attendance. Ian Hogg, chief executive of Shopworks, which supplied the technology to Serco and supplies biometric data to around 40 to 50 companies, said he had been contacting customers in retail, leisure, hospitality and homes and factories after the ICO decision.

“The ICO has issued new guidance and improved the standards we have in place to help our clients meet those new standards and provide them with all the solutions to do so,” Hogg said.

He said the new ICO standard requires companies to consider all options “and if they can meet their statutory objectives in another way, then they should use that alternative instead of biometrics.”

1Life, which operates municipal leisure centers and is owned by leisure company Parkwood, said its Shopworks system was not in use for biometric purposes and was in the process of being removed from all sites.

The ICO said in a statement: “As part of our ongoing work following the Serco application and our new guidance, we continue to engage with different stakeholders on how facial recognition and biometric technology can be used appropriately.”

The ICO’s decision underlines growing concerns about the use of facial recognition technology and other surveillance tools by employers to monitor staff.

The Trade Union Congress warned in 2022 that the use of intrusive surveillance technology and artificial intelligence risked “getting out of control” without stricter regulation to protect workers.

Mary Towers, employment rights policy officer in the TUC’s rights, international, social and economic department, leads a project looking at the use of artificial intelligence in the employment relationship. He said: “The Serco case highlights the dangers of excluding workers and unions from a genuine consultation process before the introduction of new technologies at work.”

skip past newsletter promotion

In March, an Uber Eats driver received a financial settlement, following allegations that the facial recognition checks required to access his job app were racially discriminatory, preventing him from accessing the Uber Eats app to get a job.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Union of App Drivers and Couriers backed the case of Pa Edrissa Manjang, who has worked as an Uber Eats driver in Oxfordshire since November 2019. She raised concerns about the use of artificial intelligence and automated processes. in this case.

Manjang continually experienced difficulties with Uber Eats’ verification checks, which use facial recognition and detection software. In 2021, it was removed from the platform after a failed recognition check and subsequent automated process.

Uber Eats told Manjang that it had found “continuing discrepancies” in photos of his face that he had taken in order to access the platform, according to the EHRC.

Uber Eats said its checks involved facial verification rather than facial recognition. It said its real-time ID verification compares two photos to confirm that the messenger’s selfie matches the photo on the account it has on file.

Uber Eats said in a statement: “Our real-time ID verification is designed to help keep everyone who uses our app safe and includes robust human review to ensure we’re not making decisions about someone’s livelihood in a vacuum. , Unsupervised”. . “Automated facial verification was not the reason for Mr. Manjang’s temporary loss of access to his messaging account.”

You may also like