Fingerprint Time Clocks and Privacy Concerns

Adelaide Advertiser, February 11 2015

Adelaide Advertiser, February 11 2015

To the left you can see a newspaper article that was pointed out to me recently concerning the implementation of a student and staff attendance system at a school in Adelaide, Australia. The main point of the article is that the new attendance system is a fingerprint driven time clock system and parents (and the public in general it seems) have privacy concerns. The concerns revolve around the storage of children’s fingerprints and the poor perception of children lining up to have their fingers scanned. One parent sums it up nicely in the online version of the article when she says:

The picture I have in my head is these little kids getting finger printed and lining up like they are prisoners in a jail to be scanned into class
What is wrong with the old way of doing a roll call?

Of course, the logic here is flawed, they do roll call in prisons as well (we’ve all seen Hogan’s Heroes) and the fingerprint attendance system that this school is implementing is just a natural progression from that. It’s faster, more efficient, and of course, much more reliable. The privacy concerns lay in two areas, first the storage of fingerprints, and the supposed “tracking” of where students are.

Storage of Fingerprint Images in Time Clock Systems

Let me address the “storage of fingerprints” issue first. Any good fingerprint time clock system (like Time Clock MTS) doesn’t actually store images of fingerprints. They store what is known as a “template”, which is basically a summary of the key features of a fingerprint. These templates are created for users when they are enrolled into a finger-scanning system. When a fingerprint is scanned to be matched against the stored templates it is just the key features of the scan that are compared rather than a full image match. This is done because it’s a lot faster, and of course, it means that you’re not storing a database of users fingerprints (which DOES have obvious privacy concerns). This method is not dissimilar to the method that most web-sites use to store your passwords for online banking and so on.

For the sake of completeness I should add that it’s widely accepted that a fingerprint cannot be reconstructed from a template stored in your fingerprint attendance system. But there are some dissenting opinions to this widely held belief.

Privacy Concerns Regarding Tracking Student Locations

Any concerns that tracking where students are while at school is an invasion of their privacy is of course ridiculous. The students are supposed to be at school and all a fingerprint system is doing is confirming that is where they are. In exactly the same manner that a traditional roll call is. In the case of the school in the newspaper article they are just going to be making use of the new system for exception tracking, namely when students are late, when visitors are on site, or when students are taken early from school.

In 2015 you may have noticed that when you visit for an assembly, your children are late or you have taken them early we now manually register all this information using a computer

The reasons for using the new system are of course obvious. If a student is not present for the normal roll call at the beginning of the day or the end of the day then they will not show up on records if there happens to be an emergency that requires an evacuation. Similarly, if there are visitors on-site knowing that they are is vital in the case of an emergency. A further benefit for the school is to manage their liability in terms of ensuring that students that leave early are recorded as having left in the hands of a proper guardian.

What Other Benefits?

I’ve outlined the two strongest benefits of implementing this new fingerprint system above. Namely, having complete attendance records in the exception cases where the traditional roll call systems fail, namely where children arrive after normal roll call or leave before normal roll call. This can, of course, be vital if the school is evacuated and the school needs a complete (and current) list of who is or is not at school.

There are other benefits of course. An electronic system that updates a central attendance database automatically is going to save the school both time and money. The system the school is putting in place is costing them AUD$2,000. It’s not difficult to think that they’d easily save a few hours work a week not having to manually process late arrivals and early departures. Easy savings for the school and the tax-payer at large. There’ll be other less tangible benefits too. Examination of records will easily show which children are having on-going attendance issues and these can be addressed quickly for better education out-comes for the student. Electronic tracking of visitors on-site is also very useful to help protect the children and having those records easily available can be extremely useful in event of some sort of visitor related incident on the school grounds.

Time Clock MTS as a School Fingerprint Time Clock

As of 16 February 2015 Time Clock MTS is used by 259 different schools, colleges, universities, pre-schools, and grade-schools. It is used in many different ways by those schools. In some cases it’s used to just track staff attendance, other times just students, and (of course) to track both students and staff. I know of it being used school wide or sometimes just within a particular classroom or section of the school. For example, I know of cases where it is used in vocational or trade-based classrooms by teachers to replicate a real-world work situation where employees need to punch in and out as they arrive at work and leave for the day.

If you’re a school, college, or university and you’re looking for a way to track your student or staff attendance with fingerprint security then Time Clock MTS is the solution for you. There’s a free 30 day trial available and it can be used on one computer or one hundred. Head on over to our downloads page and get the trial version now!.

Time Clock MTS

The Easy Employee TimeClock System

Time Clock MTS

The easy to use time clock software with a fully functional 30 day trial.

View Download Instructions | View Installation Instructions

Buy Time Clock MTS

Purchase a registration key from our online shop. Only buy once, no monthly fees.