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

Understanding the Security of Biometric Templates in Time Clocks

In today's digital age, biometric time clocks are becoming increasingly popular in workplaces due to their efficiency and accuracy. These systems often use fingerprints and facial recognition to track employee attendance. However, the adoption of biometric technology has raised concerns about privacy and security among employees. This article aims to explain how biometric templates are stored and why they cannot be reverse engineered for dishonest purposes. 

How Biometric Templates Work 
Biometric time clocks work by capturing unique biological characteristics of an individual, such as fingerprints or facial features, and converting these into digital data known as biometric templates. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process: Capture: 

The biometric system captures a fingerprint or facial image using a scanner or camera. 

Feature Extraction: 
The system analyzes the captured image to identify unique features. For fingerprints, this might include the pattern of ridges and valleys. For facial recognition, it might involve the distance between eyes, the shape of the nose, and other distinct facial features. 

Template Creation: 
The unique features are converted into a mathematical representation or template. This template is a series of numbers that can be used to identify the individual. 

The biometric template is securely stored in a database or on a secure server. It’s important to note that the template is not an image but a mathematical representation of the biometric data. 

Why Biometric Templates Cannot Be Reverse Engineered
One of the primary concerns with biometric systems is the potential for reverse engineering. This involves taking the stored template and converting it back into the original biometric data, such as a fingerprint or facial image. However, several factors make reverse engineering practically impossible:

Complexity of the Templates: 
Biometric templates are highly complex and are designed to be one-way transformations. The mathematical representation created from a fingerprint or facial image is not a simple code that can be easily deciphered. It involves intricate algorithms that are not easily reversible.

 Lack of Sufficient Data: 
The template only contains essential features needed for identification, not a full reconstruction of the original biometric data. This means even if someone accessed the template, they would not have enough information to recreate the fingerprint or face. 

Encryption and Security 
Measures: Biometric templates are usually encrypted before storage. Encryption adds an additional layer of security, making it extremely difficult for unauthorized individuals to interpret the data. Modern encryption techniques are highly sophisticated and require significant computational power to break. 

Use of Hash Functions: 
Many biometric time clock systems use hash functions to convert biometric data into templates. Hash functions are designed to be irreversible, meaning once the data is converted into a hash, it cannot be converted back into the original data. Anonymization: In many systems, biometric templates are anonymized, meaning they are stored without any direct association with personal identifying information. This further reduces the risk of misuse. 

Addressing Employee Concerns 
Understanding how biometric templates are stored and protected can help alleviate employee concerns about privacy and security. Employers can take additional steps to reassure their workforce: 

Transparent Policies: 
Clearly communicate how biometric data is collected, stored, and used. Ensure employees know that their data is protected and used solely for attendance tracking. 

Data Access Controls: 
Implement strict access controls to ensure only authorized personnel can access biometric data. 

Regular Audits: 
Conduct regular security audits to ensure that biometric data is stored securely and that the system remains compliant with privacy regulations. 

Biometric time clocks offer numerous benefits for businesses, including improved accuracy and efficiency in tracking employee attendance. While privacy concerns are valid, it’s important to understand that biometric templates are designed to be secure and cannot be reverse engineered for dishonest purposes. By implementing robust security measures and maintaining transparency with employees, businesses can successfully address privacy concerns and leverage the advantages of biometric technology. Understanding these safeguards can help foster trust and acceptance among employees, ensuring a smooth and secure transition to biometric time clocks.

Jim Courtwood

Time & Attendance Consultant


1300 553 254

0437 772 977