Canadian Public Servants Fight Biometric Checks

Fingerprint Biometric ChecksCanada’s federal government is implementing new security screening protocols for its public servants that will include fingerprint collection in some cases, and the unions representing those workers are fighting back, according to a National Post article by Don Butler. The two main unions representing these workers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), have both publicly expressed concern over the new protocols, and the latter has filed six official grievances over the matter.

Explaining the new security screening protocols, which also include mandatory credit checks, a Treasury Board email said, “An assessment of the trustworthiness and reliability of all individuals accessing sensitive information and/or assets must be undertaken to protect the interests and security of the government of Canada,” adding that such an assessment could “include an RCMP requirement to obtain the individual’s fingerprints if deemed necessary by the functions of the position.”

Responding to the new measures, PSAC’s president called the credit checks “an unwarranted gross violation of personal privacy”, while PIPSC’s president said that the “fingerprinting of employees who haven’t any criminal record is particularly troubling and, given this government’s addiction to the outsourcing of IT services, a major privacy breach waiting to happen.”

The unfolding situation already resembles a similar fight in San Francisco, where city workers have rallied against the imposition of biometric attendance tracking systems at two of the city’s museums. Given how relatively easily biometric systems are continually being imposed in many private-sector workplaces, there appears to be a growing divide between the kinds of deployments acceptable in the public versus the private sphere, or at least between areas of employment with union representation and those without.

March 18, 2015 – by Alex Perala