Keeping up with this blog brings me to the web sites of newspapers all over the world. Most use pretty standard names (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but a couple use names that are so memorable and charming that they have become my favorites. They are The Deming Headlight out of New Mexico, and The Gleaner of Jamaica.
Today The Gleaner has a piece on fingerprint biometrics for time and attendance, Fingerprint Fears, that reads like a flashback to 2009.
The arguments are well worn and the comments section is lively. But one thing that stands out is the state of Jamaican law on the subject of fingerprints. Evidently:
Under Jamaican law, a person can only be compelled to provide fingerprints in specific criminal matters. The law also allows an individual the right to refuse to give fingerprints.
Section 3A of the Finger Prints Act states that “where a person is taken into custody on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence, that person’s fingerprints and photograph … shall not be taken unless the authorised officer informs the person of such matters as may be prescribed, and that (the person) has the right to refuse to have his fingerprints and photograph taken”.
The article quotes a lawyer and the Justice Minister explaining that refusal to use a fingerprint time-and-attendance system is not grounds for dismissal for current employees. It does however seem that companies are within their rights to make future hiring contingent upon the agreement to use such a system.
Regardless of the peculiarities of the Jamaican situation, it has offered an opportunity to revisit some earlier posts that best covered this well trodden ground. Note: “Ghost workers” can be substituted for “buddy punchers” in any the posts quoted below.
Employers already have extremely sensitive information that, in the wrong hands, can be used for identity theft, harassment, discrimination and any number of other abuses. A long string of apparently random text characters (biometric template) cannot be used for any of these things.
Adopting more efficient ID management systems creates winners and losers. In this case the losers are those who receive the ghost workers’ salaries. While these individuals aren’t necessarily sympathetic characters, they aren’t necessarily powerless, either. By sharing the financial benefits of of better ID management with legitimate workers, the president of Guinea has created an “army” of organizational allies as he attempts to change the finances and culture of the military.
“It might sound hard, but more accuracy means more fairness, for both staff and customers,” says Mr Machin. “Thirty percent of our costs are labour. The more we pin costs down, the more choice we have about how to distribute rewards. And the better we get at pricing our produce, the more customers we bring in.”
That last one is one of the first posts at this blog and the article it links to (thanks to The Yorkshire Post, it’s still active) remains one of my favo(u)rites.