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Privacy – where to draw the line?

January 12, 2011

Please welcome guest blogger Scott Barker, a Product Marketing Manager at Kronos, Inc.

Has the controversy over intrusive airport security measures died down at all? OK good. Now let’s introduce a new one: biometrics in the airport.

While those of us in the business of workforce management commonly think of biometric technology as an effective means of preventing buddy punching, there are in fact a myriad of other use cases out there. Some airports are giving passengers the option of skipping to the front of the line when they fly if they agree to a biometric enrollment combined with a detailed background check ahead of time. Many people would think this practice seems harmless enough. If you’ve got nothing to hide and you’re a frequent flyer, isn’t it a no-brainer to participate in this program? Not so fast. The word ‘biometrics,’ can make even an innocent person very squeamish.

Maybe it has something to do with losing control of your own information. People like to have full control of their personal information and tend to feel violated when this information is gathered and held by a faceless entity.  Would it make you uneasy knowing that the TSA has a facial scan, your fingerprints, and a full background check on file? Will they care about unpaid parking tickets? What about that goldfish you accidentally starved to death in 3rd grade?

In many ways the controversy over biometrics is a lot like finding out that information you’ve posted on a social networking site has suddenly become ‘publicly available.’ It can give people a very uneasy feeling. In reality, what’s the worst that can happen if your Facebook profile gets in the hands of a diabolical villain? I suppose that depends on what you have posted.

While we should all be cognizant of the threat of identity theft, submitting your biometric information – that’s defined as a record of an indelible physical characteristic – to your employer, or the TSA should be no big deal as long as you’ve got nothing to hide. Biometrics has been embraced all over the world, as a rite of citizenship in Haiti, in school systems in Scotland, and even in banks and ATMS of Poland. If we could educate people on the benefits of biometric technology when used safely and securely, people might not be so squeamish about using it. And then we’ll never have to wait in lines again.

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