Leisure company warns against scanning employee faces, it’s illegal.

February 23, 2024

Article Summary


  • The Information Commissioner’s Office has ordered Serco Leisure to stop using facial recognition tech to monitor staff.
  • Serco Leisure was unlawfully processing biometric data of more than 2,000 employees without offering a clear alternative.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has instructed Serco Leisure to cease the use of facial recognition technology for monitoring staff attendance. This decision was made following the discovery that Serco Leisure had been processing biometric data of over 2,000 employees across 38 UK leisure facilities without providing a clear alternative to the gathering of such data. The ICO deemed this practice unfair and disproportionate, noting that there were less intrusive ways of monitoring staff attendance such as ID cards or fobs. Despite Serco Leisure claiming to have engaged with employees prior to implementing the technology, the ICO found that staff members had not been given a true choice in the matter and that the technology heightened the power imbalance in the workplace.

John Edwards, UK Information Commissioner, emphasized the unique nature of biometric data and the increased risks associated with its use. The ICO is set to release new guidance for organizations considering the use of employees’ biometric data to ensure compliance with data protection laws. Privacy campaigners have long been critical of such technologies, viewing them as an infringement on individual rights, while others argue for their precision and safety benefits.

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