London Underground cleaners shun fingerprint technology

London Underground cleaners are refusing to embrace the introduction of fingerprint clock-in machines with almost all union members balloting for industrial action.

The RMT Union reports that 98 per cent of the 103 votes cast were in favour of industrial action with just two per cent of the ISS cleaners voting against action.

"We believe this technology infringes on staff civil liberties and the overwhelming vote in favour of action shows our members' strength of feeling on this issue," Bob Crow, RMT's general secretary, told the BBC.

The strike against what the RMT calls a “draconian attack on civil liberties” is taking place from 00:01 19 September 2013 and involves RMT members clocking in and out using traditional methods instead of the fingerprint recognition machines.

ISS, the company at the centre of the row, are implementing the technology to “guarantee that the member of staff is who they say they are”.

"We don't think this is draconian or an infringement of civil liberties; it's about making sure we have the right people - verified and trained - in the right place at the right time,” added Adam Wurf, communications director for ISS UK.

One of the main concerns with the fingerprint technology is that in some cases it can be unreliable and the BBC report that cryptographers have been able to fake fingerprints using gelatine found in sweets. Apple, which has just introduced a fingerprint scanner to its iPhone, aims to sidestep this problem by scanning “sub-epidermal skin layers”.

Even with Apple’s new version of the technology there are worries over how reliable it is with Andy Kemshall, co-founder of SecurEnvoy, telling ITProPortal that the iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner “will undoubtedly leave users exposed to security risks”. The worry is that biometric authentication is “not yet near the level it needs to be for the majority of consumer facing organisations to implement it” and reinforces the worries held by the RMT and ISS.