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With biometrics fast becoming commonplace, so many areas of our lives are seeing a positive impact. In the workplace, it is a widely-accepted technology to improve business processes, but I read with interest recently, about a new workplace application: as a predictive tool to analyse behaviour.

It led me to think about whether this is a new frontier that should be further analysed, or just a natural extension of biometric technology. It may sound quite futuristic, but with today’s rapid pace of change, it may be just around the corner.

Predicting behaviour

Given the number of biometric modalities available to provide certainty of identity, and their use for a wide range of business applications, it’s not surprising that biometrics would branch out into other business areas.

The article discussed the idea that biometrics could be used to profile the behaviour of employees, both prospective and existing. In the digital age, we’re all aware that it is common for employers to check our social media presence and use it as a way of assessing our suitability for a job; there have been plenty of high profile cases where it’s cost people a role.

In the near future, biometrics could be used to assess areas such as your stress levels, engagement, and excitement, allowing an employer to make a range of calculated assumptions about you, based purely on an image or a live stream during your interview.

The question this article poses is essentially along ethical lines: Is it okay for an organisation to use this technology to assess an individual’s suitability for a job? It certainly opens a Pandora’s box of ethical considerations.

As with any new application of a technology, there will always be apprehension about how it will be used, and how it will affect our lives. It’s not new, it’s been happening for a long time – inventions such as the steam train, the telephone and the television were all met with trepidation. In more recent history, it happened with the PC and then social media, both of which quickly became part of everyday life and many concerns proved to be largely unwarranted.

It’s understandable that new applications can cause concern, but should we really be worried?

Biometrics is used every day across a range of industries such as transport, security, and banking. A layer of additional personal data not only makes us more secure, but also dramatically improves throughput and processing which previously may have been a very manual, difficult process. It makes life easier for businesses and end users alike, just think about how long it used to take to clear customs at an airport, for example.

Part of a bigger debate

It can be argued that the ethical considerations of biometrics are all part of a bigger debate. The hottest trending topic in technology today is artificial intelligence (AI), and it has plenty of people scared; from a big brother perspective with the amount of information public and private companies have on us (and how they use it), through to AI replacing us at work.

Biometrics will form a part of these discussions: There’s no doubt that biometric technology will be part of numerous AI-based solutions. That shouldn’t preclude us from investigating how a combination of technology can dramatically improve our lives, and in the vast majority of cases that will be the result.

All technology companies should welcome public debate about how technology can be used. Ultimately, a technology type can have so many uses, there really are few limits – it will come down to what society deems as ethical.

Benefits outweigh the negatives

Biometrics offers huge opportunities in so many areas. The ability to provide a level of security, process improvement, and an enhanced user experience are all key benefits of this technology.

Like all the technology changes we’ve experienced, there will be debate on how to best utilise biometrics and where the ethical line is. We’re confident that the right balance will be struck and that the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

Interested in learning about how biometrics could improve the way you do business? Click here to talk to Argus about how we can increase security, improve business process, enhance the user experience, and deliver bottom-line cost savings.


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