Companies in UK reconsider facial recognition amid regulatory clampdown

Amidst regulatory scrutiny, UK businesses are reassessing the use of facial recognition technology and fingerprint scanning for staff attendance, signaling a significant shift in workplace surveillance practices.

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A wave of reconsideration is sweeping across UK businesses as they reassess the use of facial recognition technology and fingerprint scanning for staff attendance monitoring. This shift comes in response to a clampdown by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which recently ordered a Serco subsidiary to cease using biometrics for attendance tracking at leisure centres it manages.

The ICO’s directive followed its discovery that over 2,000 employees’ biometric data had been unlawfully processed across 38 Serco-managed leisure centres. As a result, Serco has been granted a three-month window to align its systems with the ICO’s compliance standards.

In the wake of the ICO’s ruling, various leisure centre operators and corporations are either reviewing or halting the use of similar biometric technologies. Notable among them is Virgin Active, which has removed biometric scanners from 32 sites and is actively seeking alternative attendance monitoring solutions for its staff.

Why does it matter?

The ICO’s intervention underscores broader concerns regarding the increasing prevalence of facial recognition and surveillance tools in employment contexts. The scrutiny extends beyond leisure centres, as highlighted by a recent case involving an Uber Eats driver who received a financial settlement over allegations of racially discriminatory facial recognition checks. These developments underscore the urgent need for robust regulations to safeguard workers’ rights in the age of AI and automated processes.