"This post was originally published on September 21, 2017 and updated on March 28, 2019."
As you look for more reliable and secure ways to track employee time and eliminate the costs of time theft and buddy punching, exploring biometric time clocks is a natural choice. Biometric scanners have been showing up in television and movies since the 1960s in Star Trek: The Original Series, where they've used everything from voice prints to retina scans. Watching what movie directors have done with them can be eerie.
Fortunately, that’s the movies. In real life, scanners used in biometric time clocks are secure. They provide your company accuracy in time and attendance reporting unparalleled by traditional punch clocks or card swipes. It's time to move past Hollywood representations and bust some myths about biometric time clocks.
Busted Myth #1: Image files can’t be stolen in a hack
When it comes to a biometric time clock scan to verify someone’s identity, one of the greatest fears is that their biometric information is now on file somewhere. This is not true.
At ATS, we offer three different fingerprint scanner options (this is one of our most popular time clocks with biometric add-on), none of which store an image of anyone’s fingerprint. The scanner converts what it sees into a string of numbers. In fact, the fingerprint scanner detects minute characteristics below the skin, including veins, to create the unique number string that identifies a given individual. Thus, a lot more information beyond just the swirls and indentations of a fingerprint go into creating the unique identifier.
Palm scanners work in a similar way, including subdermal vein patterns in the profile scan, rather than just hand topography.
The result is that the numerical strings generated by the physical information are useless to anyone, law enforcement or otherwise, who wants to get your fingerprint. The image the scanner uses to create the numerical string never gets stored. The system discards the image once the person initially enrolls in the system to get their numerical identifier created.
Don’t worry. You’re not being fingerprinted.
Busted Myth #2: Iris scans don't rely on genetic information
The eyes are the windows to the soul, but don’t worry. You’re not giving away your soul–or any personal information for that matter–when you have your iris scanned. The only thing that is collected is the physical pattern of your iris itself. Your iris is exceptionally detailed, even more so than your fingerprint. This detail is what makes it a highly secure, unspoofable option for biometric identification. Yet when the iris is scanned, there’s no physical contact with the scanner. No physical material could be collected even accidentally.
Furthermore, like the fingerprint scan – the end result here isn’t a digital image of your iris. The enrollment scan of an iris actually requires two different images be taken of the eye, one in ordinary light and the other using infrared light. A computer then analyzes the combination of these two images to create a visual pattern out of the bits of data called an IrisCode. This is why hackers can’t use a high-resolution image of your eye to fool a biometric time clock scanner.
Iris scans are one of the biometric options that can differentiate between identical twins, further evidence that iris scans don't rely on genetics to make an identification.
Mini-myth 2.5 busted: Iris and retinal scans are not the same thing. The iris and retina are two different parts of the eye. The technology needed to capture the master image is different. As the retina is located at the back of the eye, while the iris is front and center. Because of the retina's location, it can be more difficult to capture the data needed to create a unique identifier file.
Busted Myth #3: Your risk for identity theft doesn't increase
The truth is nothing is easier to steal than passwords and documents. One of the greatest benefits to using biometric scanners is eliminating the possibility that someone else can punch in (“buddy punch”) for anyone else, exactly because they’re so difficult to spoof or compromise.
The underlying data used in fingerprint or iris scanners to verify identity has no value outside the system in which it’s used. No one can use an IrisCode pattern to get a mortgage or new credit card. The likelihood of the fingerprint codes or IrisCodes being stolen is also low, as they’re protected with high-level encryption when being sent from the scanner to time management software systems.
Busted Myth #4: Biometric scans cost less than you'd think
Adding a biometric reader add-on to your time clock does increase the cost of the time clock. That's obvious; it's an additional feature and extra security, so of course it will entail an initial expense. In truth though, the premium added to benefit from the increase security and speed a biometric reader provides is probably lower than you're assuming.
More importantly, the power biometric readers have to eliminate buddy punching represents a significant direct savings to your labor costs.
Don’t let the myths surrounding biometric time clocks keep your company from benefiting from the increased accuracy and accountability they provide. As you learn more How the Right Time Clock Can Improve Time and Attendance Reporting, you’ll want to ensure the data you collect is as accurate and reliable as possible. If you have any questions about how to find the right time clock, reach out to us today. And don’t forget to download our free eBook!