Biometrics given cautious approval in Alberta

Privacy commissioner’s office approves hand and thumbprint scanners with strict limits to track shifts
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

Employers looking to use biometric scanners to track employees’ hours of work can feel a little more comfortable after two investigations by the Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner found them to be acceptable, with certain conditions.

An employee at the Southwood Care Centre, a Calgary nursing home, complained to the commissioner when her employer implemented a hand recognition scanning system for employees to clock in and out of work. The system scanned the hand, recorded various measurements and assigned a mathematical value for those measurements. An employee identification number was associated with the numerical value and employees scanned their hand and punched in their number when they arrived and left work.

The system was connected to the payroll system and kept track of arrival and departure times. The employee was concerned the recording of her handprint was a privacy violation and believed the information stored in the system wasn’t properly protected. She filed the complaint in February 2008, seven months before Southwood planned full implementation of the system.