Jim Courtwood
Author of the Time & Attendance Consultant's Guide Series

The Case for Relaxed Security in Biometric Time and Attendance Systems 

Many of my existing clients and sales inquiries are up to speed with the latest biometric technologies. Companies like the Biometric Institute have a significant reach in electronic media and understandably focus on the latest issues and the most advanced developments. 

This is entirely understandable as the leading applications are in the security sector where topics such as "anti-spoofing" and twin detection are on the table, but are these cutting-edge features something the average business should be concerned about? 

Biometric Technology in Today's World.

In today's world, biometric technology has found its way into various aspects of our lives, from smartphones and laptops to access control systems. One particular application is biometric time and attendance systems, designed to streamline workforce management.  While biometric security is essential in specific contexts, this article argues that biometric time and attendance systems do not need to be as secure as other applications due to their particular use cases and practical considerations.  

The Unique Characteristics of Biometric Time and Attendance Systems 

Low Stakes:  
Unlike systems that manage sensitive financial data, critical infrastructure, or national security, time and attendance systems primarily record employee attendance and working hours. The consequences of a security breach in such systems are relatively minor compared to violations in more critical applications.  

Contextual Usage:  
Biometric time and attendance systems are typically used within the confines of an organization, where employees already have some level of trust. Unlike online banking or government identification, where security is paramount, the primary goal of these systems is to track work hours accurately.

Minimal Personal Data:  
Biometric time and attendance systems usually collect limited biometric data, such as fingerprints, facial images, or handprints, for the sole purpose of verifying an individual's identity for attendance tracking. This is in contrast to other applications that may require extensive personal information, making them more attractive targets for cybercriminals. 

Practical Considerations Cost-Effective Implementation: 
Implementing a highly secure biometric system can be expensive, involving specialized hardware and software. For many organizations, the additional cost may not be justifiable when compared to the relatively low-security risk associated with attendance data.  

Employee Convenience: 
 A high-security biometric system might inconvenience employees with more extended enrollment and verification processes. This can lead to operational inefficiencies, as employees spend more time clocking in and out, potentially affecting productivity.  

Organizations often expand and contract their workforces over time. Implementing overly stringent biometric security requirements can make adapting the system to changing workforce sizes challenging. 

Privacy Concerns: 
High-security biometrics, such as facial recognition or iris scans, can raise employee privacy concerns. Striking a balance between security and individual privacy is crucial to maintaining a positive work environment.  

Biometric time and attendance systems are designed to fulfil an organization's specific and relatively low-risk purpose. Their primary objective is to accurately track employee attendance and working hours, not to safeguard highly sensitive or personal data.  Therefore, these systems don't need to be as secure as other applications, such as online banking or government identification. 

While security should be addressed, practical considerations such as cost, employee convenience, scalability, and privacy concerns should weigh heavily in decision-making. By adopting a balanced approach to biometric security in time and attendance systems, organizations can effectively manage their workforce without unnecessary complexity and cost while ensuring a reasonable security level.

Jim Courtwood

Time & Attendance Consultant


1300 553 254

0437 772 977