San Francisco museum workers protest employee biometric authorization

February 27, 2015 - 

Workers at San Francisco’s de Young and Legion of Honor museums are in an uproar about the new mandatory biometric authorization for employees, concerned that a cyber hack could compromise their personal information, according to a report by CBS San Francisco Bay Area.

Approximately 1,700 employees, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, have signed a petition urging City Hall to protect their privacy and sensitive personal information.

They stated that they are unwilling to submit their thumbprints to a third-party contractor to be used for the museums’ new biometric time and attendance system.

The union members argue that unlike a credit card or Social Security number, they would not be able to obtain new thumbprints if their biometric information were to ever be stolen.

They also complained that their biometrics should not be provided to a contractor as a condition of their employment.

In a letter addressed to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and the Board of Supervisors, the employees explained “a biometric clock is a violation of employees’ rights to personal security and serves to foster a surveillance culture.”

The letter also stated that by forcing employees to submit their fingerprints “under pain of discipline, insubordination and possible termination,” the Fine Arts Museums has violated the San Francisco Administration Code, which specifically states that the city cannot disclose employee’s private information without their consent.
The employees said they are more than happy to clock in and out using a magnetic swipe card or enter their city-issued Disaster Service Worker ID number.

In addition, union workers said that questions of identity could also be addressed by reviewing the security footage of the time clocks.

There is also considerable criticism over the double standard regarding more senior leveled museum personnel not being required to provide their biometrics.

San Francisco supervisor Eric Mar said he is also concerned about the issues raised by biometric identification and agrees with the museum workers that it is an invasion of their privacy.

Mar is working to draft a resolution that would make it a mandatory practice for city departments to gain the consent of employees before submitting their biometrics to a third-party contractor.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.