Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Signing in to work by digital fingerprinting. Good or Bad?

The end of the semester is drawing near and like a narrow tunnel many tasks are piling on. There are final tests to be made and scores of report cards to fill out. In the midst of this we were pulled away from our desks to register our fingers.

The school installed a new system of checking in it's employers. Before, we would just sign our names in a little book, and be on our way. We didn't do much to check out, except change our shoes and give a friendly wave goodbye.

Without any notice we were made to register our fingerprints and start using this system. When I was pulled away from my desk to register and was told, "We are registering our fingers." I didn't blink nor think twice about this. As we walked down the stairs and I saw a man standing next to a gadget on the wall that looked like something out of a spy movie, I got excited instead of worried. I watched as my colleagues went first, registering two fingers (of their choice) and seeing the little blue light blink in and out. Finally, it was my turn and I watched as it scanned in my fingers and took a black and white image of this physical identification.

All felt good and I went back to work. A little later, as I went to get my payslip from our Coordinator, I learned that this new signing in-thing isn't favored by everyone. Soon enough I heard chatter about how this is invasive to our rights and concern over whether this would be grounds to fire us at the end of our term.

I understand the concern towards the officials using our time stamping as a way to discuss whether they should renew our contract or not, but what I didn't understand was the displeasure in this being sprung on us the last minute and that there was no information given. I have gotten use to the Korean work environment where if something changes or new comes along you can't expect a month's advance of preparation or notice. Another thing I don't understand is how this could end up being invasive to our rights. They are just using our fingerprints to make us sign in and out. Are they going to be sent to authorities? If so then I understand the need for clarification.

In the end I don't see this as a bad thing, except if they use our time stamps to penalize us at the end of our contract and don't give us notice. But it states in the contract to be on time and not leave early (unless permitted). Also, I feel we can work out a system where if we are dramatically late on occasion it can be documented by the right people, so that at the end of the year can be explained for clarification.

However, I find myself in a small boat of people who are okay with this new system. A large majority of the foreign staff are upset. Yet I understand their point-of-view, and I think they are okay with the concept just want more information before signing up.

Generally, is digital fingerprinting a good way to keep track of your time schedule? Is it especially dangerous for the Korean workplace, where little time differences here and there can be made into big ordeals?

Do you have one of these things in your workplace? And how would you describe it's influence.


  1. I personally don't think it's any more invasive than clocking in/out via any other time-clock method - and at least you know *you* are the person clocking yourself in/out, as no one else has your fingerprints (this could be good or bad, depending!)

    On a related note: My previous laptop had a built-in fingerprint scanner, and you could set it to require fingerprint as well as password authorization to run windows. I never used it... I use my computer all the time, and my initial thought was: what happens if I scratch/cut/blister/burn my finger? Will I be locked out of my laptop until it heals? What if it leaves a scar? Aaack! So yeah, never used it.

    I hope the school has some method of dealing with finger-injuries, as they do happen from time to time :-)

  2. haha that is funny about the finger worries. I wouldn't mind a card you just "beep" in rather than the fingerprint thing. But then someone could just take your card.

  3. For a school environment I would have mixed feelings about a finger print being used, just because in this case, how do you know that your prints are being stored safely. If it was a bank or high security area/work environment then I would think it would be silly not to do it that way.

    That being said, i know that my school uses that system for the Korean teachers but I dont have to use it. Perks of being the foreigner I guess.

    From a company point of view you can "understand" that it makes it tamper proof from having your friend punch you in or out early/later than you really are there so it keeps the employee time record more "honest".

    Back in the states, I did work for a company which used a hand scanner to verify the identity. It was a top down scanner so you would put your hand on a flat base and it would basically measure the shape of your hand or the distance between 2 fingers or something like with a little laser scanner like they use at the check out at Emart (again from the top of the hand) so it didn't scan your finger prints. It did the same as the fingerprint scanner but no worry of your prints being "lost" or anything like that.

  4. Tip: depending on the sensitivity of the sensor, you can fool it with an ink or graphite fingerprint on paper.

    Also, I don't see this as much of an invasion, assuming the school is willing to explain how your data is stored and who can access it.

  5. @Tuttle: and if they're not willing to explain, what recourse does one have? This is the new order, suck it up and get used to it. Mythbusters did a show where they fooled a fingerprint scanner - it's not that hard..

    Further, they're not likely to fire you / not renew your contract because of a few minutes late. If they are, ask yourself if that's really the place you want to work.

    It's an easy way to track time... until, of course, it *accidentally* becomes unplugged, stops working, or otherwise won't read the fingerprints... Far be it for me to *suggest* it, but certainly plenty of things have been known to happen...

  6. That would be cool if started talking back.

  7. On a related note - I had my interview at a company in Yeouido yesterday. In order to enter the building (past the lobby), you need an ID card, and in order to enter the actual office, you need to have your fingerprint scanned to unlock the door - just security measures, not for clocking in/out.


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