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UK ICO has a primer for bosses new to biometrically surveilling staff

UK ICO has a primer for bosses new to biometrically surveilling staff

The UK’s information-rights commission has published new research that shows most residents don’t want to be monitored by employers. At the moment, at least, biometric monitoring isn’t a big issue.

The undercurrent of the research is that a lot more people work from home than any generation since the Industrial Revolution. And while they may yet evolve, bosses today don’t naturally or universally accept that remote underlings work hard.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has a message for employers: Take your relevant legal obligations and your employees’ rights into account when drawing up remote-office policies.

A good place to start might be knowing that 70 percent of survey respondents said monitoring in any workplace would be intrusive. It will take some community-building and finesse to deploy systems.

The top form of monitoring, reported by 40 percent of respondents, was timekeeping, a practice that probably dates back to Mesopotamia. The second-most common practice is monitoring electronic or digital communications. A quarter of respondents said they were aware of that.

Biometrics as a supplement to time-tested methods of watching over people doing their jobs will continue to grow because task-mastering managers, being busy with very important matters, cannot stare at video feeds from employees’ homes watching for an idle moment, much less listen to phone calls. But facial and voice recognition can.

The ICO says organizations considering biometrics for time and attendance, alternatives should be considered, and must ensure adequate security if they do use them.

For access control, businesses should document their reasons for using biometrics, be clear about their necessity, and be able to justify why an alternative method is not used.

The watchdog has included in the research checklists and policy prompts for those employers taking a thoughtful, holistic approach at organizational productivity rather than totting numbers to roll out during a visit to human resources.

Most of it is standard stuff for larger organizations, like spelling out data security, impact assessments, proportionate use and the like.

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