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U.K. trade union rebels against biometric employee scanning

Posting in Technology

A U.K. trade union is encouraging members to take action against biometric scanning devices used to detect when employees clock in and out of shifts.

The London chapter of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers (RMT) says that the use of biometric technology to keep track of LU ISS London Underground cleaners, whom it represents, is no less than a "draconian attack on civil liberties," and so is encouraging members to take industrial action "short of strikes" in protest.

Supported almost unanimously in a recent ballot, the RMT said:

"We instruct our members to take industrial action short of strikes from 00:01 on Thursday 19 September 2013 until further notice, by booking on and off duty using the established method and not using the biometric machines."

Biometric scanning is already used in a number of ways. Passports, security cameras and laptops have all used physical and behavioral characteristics -- including retina scans, eye color, fingerprints and faces -- to ascertain a person's identity. However, the technology has been dogged with problems including accuracy and reliability errors. Laptops which introduced biometrics in the last decade failed, and U.K. airports that used retina scans in "e-Passports" to establish flier identities removed the technology following long delays and technological failures.

Brought to the forefront after the release of Apple's new iPhone feature, Touch Id, fingerprint scanning technology has prompted a debate not only over the safety of biometric data scanning and storage, but some critics also warn that due to the permanent nature of the information, it should never be used for the sake of consumer -- or business -- convenience.

Via: IT News | RMT

Image credit: Apple

— By on September 17, 2013, 4:45 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure