Australia’s Human Services workers protest against planned voice biometrics monitoring

March 20, 2015 - 

Australia’s federal Department of Human Services’ introduction of a biometric call monitoring and performance management system is creating considerable friction between staff and management, according to a report by Government News.

The Community and Public Sector Union criticized the department’s management for not consulting their staff before it implemented a new system called ‘MTS’.

The CPSU contends that it was never provided with formal notification of the agency’s plans to “implement powerful new monitoring and performance management technology across SMART Centres without releasing all relevant documentation or consulting with staff.”

The main issue of the dispute relates to the introduction of what the union refers to as “linkages to Telstra’s global ‘Telephony Carriage Services’ enabling work to be moved to private companies anywhere in the world.”

Human Services’ plan to offshore call centre operations which handle the private information of Australian clients could potentially violate both privacy laws and data sovereignty rules enforced by the Attorney General’s Department.

In a bulletin to union members, the CPSU said that it had learned that Human Services is looking to implement “automatic and compulsory call recording”, along with management systems for “Work Force Optimization.”

The CPSU also said Human Services is planning on using “voice biometrics” technology that “tracks the way you and customers talk on the phone,” potentially for the purposes of client identification for self-services functions.

The CPSU is demanding that management consults with them before making any changes in the workplace as well as to cease its implementation plans and “release to staff and CPSU all relevant documentation on the proposed MTS system, its technology and capabilities, and support consultation before any decision is made.”

The union also demanded that the agency guarantees that the new “technology and call recording will not be used in performance management.”

Human Services is required to adhere to “their Fair Work Commission commitment to consult on proposed MTS technology”, said the CPSU, adding that it is currently polling staff to figure out if it will launch a campaign against the technology.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.