December 6, 2002
While more employers take advantage of fingerprinting technologies as a security measure and to screen prospective employees, civil libertarians are saying that there aren’t enough legal protections against abuse, USA Today reports.
Increasingly, companies rely on fingerprint technology to do background checks. In addition, some companies use fingerprints as a replacement for timecards. Others use fingerprints as a security tool instead of ID cards or passwords, according to USA Today.
Critics contend that fingerprinting raises a number of privacy concerns that haven't been fully addressed.
“The technology is developing at the speed of light, but the laws that protect our privacy are in the Stone Age,” says a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union. “Over time, databases will be used for wholly unrelated purposes. There’s no law that an employer can’t sell the data.”
USA Today notes that employers are turning to fingerprinting in the workplace because the technology has become more affordable and the terrorism attacks made many companies take a hard look at their security procedures.
Proponents of the technology say it is able to protect workers’ privacy because the databases where information is kept do not store the actual fingerprint.
Companies that sell fingerprint technology tell USA Today that sales are up. One firm says that it seeing a 50 percent jump in sales each month. Overall, in the industry fingerprint technology accounts for $470 million in revenue.
Some companies that have adopted fingerprint technology say've tried to ease privacy concerns among employees by speaking with them first to make sure there are no objections. Jonathan Augustine, president of AZG Research in Bowling Green, Ohio, wanted to use fingerprinting to monitor when his workers came and went. About a year ago, he brought them together and asked them what they thought.
"I said, 'Is this going to be a problem or a right-to-privacy issue?' " says Augustine, at the market research and consulting firm. "Quite frankly, I got very few people who had anything they didn't like. And there's no faking. Everybody has to come to work with their finger."