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Where I work they suddenly decided to get a finger print scanner. This would be used to clock employees in and out, and for breaks. I'm not comfortable with this mainly for a privacy reason, but also touching the same surface other people touch multiple times a day is a sanitary concern. In my experience management hasn't always been honest so I don't care if they say my finger prints aren't stored in their system.

I'm prepared to quit over this (as I was already thinking of it for other reasons). But it seems rather large of a jump. Should I talk to my manager in person, or in writing, and tell him I'm not comfortable scanning my finger print? I don't think it's legal for them to force employees to do this. I don't want to get into an argument where he's trying to change my mind. Should I tell him I'll quit or just do it without giving an explanation?

In my contract I agreed to give 2 weeks notice before quitting, but given how they sprung this on us that might not be possible without refusing to use the machine.

This seems very out of the blue to me, there hasn't been a problem with arriving at work on time. I realize some high security places would require this for access, but where I work is not such a place. It's very public facing.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Sep 24 at 11:30
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    If your fingerprints aren't stored how is the scanner supposed to know it's you that's clocking in and out? – Bob Jarvis - Reinstate Monica Sep 25 at 19:08
  • @JoeStrazzere " It cannot be used in reverse to generate an image of your fingerprint" - I thought the opposite was true. May I ask where you got this from? – fivemoose Sep 25 at 22:55
  • @fivemoose Joe Strazzere is almost certainly correct, but that doesn't mean you have any less right to not want to comply – Bitsplease Sep 26 at 2:12
  • @JoeStrazzere - unless part of the process is to hash the data, the fingerprint could be recreated from that data - after all, an image is simply a series of 1s and 0s. Of course, you hope that a system like this uses secure one-way storage, but it's been my experience that security systems are actually terribly insecure. – HorusKol Sep 26 at 3:03

10 Answers 10

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Should I tell him I'll quit or just do it without giving an explanation?

Don't bother.

Threatening to quit is extremely unlikely to cause the company to abandon the fingerprint scanner. And you were thinking of quitting anyway. Finally, you indicated that you don't want to get into a discussion about the issue anyway.

Just find a new job, give your notice, work your notice period, and move on.

When you look for your next job, pay careful attention to how they implement their attendance clock. If tracking is your concern, you are unlikely to avoid that no matter what system they use. If it's only your fingerprints that worry you, you may be able to avoid it at your new company, at least initially.

If sanitation is your concern, that is easily fixed with disinfecting wipes or gel. We all touch many surfaces each day - a fingerprint scanner is no different than other surfaces.

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103

For your case, don't bother. Better to leave on good terms and get a reference. It sounds like it's not a good place to work, and you're better off finding a better job.


As an aside:

Nighfillers at a retail store I worked took exception to a finger print scanner.

They tried all sorts of ways to get it removed, including complaining that it was sticky and smelly and needing to wash their hands after using, (including probably making it sticky), it broke a few times too, (suspiciously one of the internal plugs got pulled of a circuit board and there was wear marks on screws), all sorts of things. None worked. Management doubled down.

What worked? The pile of notes they left for the hr lady saying "it didnt scan last night. I finished at 11:05pm, Manager will confirm, and I waved at the camera while leaving so you can double check.". Also left notes for scary things like "Matt scanned his finger and it popped up Steve's photo. Steve left 4 minutes later and didnt scan so just left." They made so much extra work for the hr lady, and they scared the manager into thinking the system was inaccurate. They abandoned the system and went back to a pin code system.

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    Ahh... the ol' passive aggressive approach. Wonderful! – FreeMan Sep 24 at 11:22
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    I do not agree that none worked because if the scanner was broken a few time, it surely generated a lot of notes to the HR and what seems to work was the pile of notes? – Sebastien DErrico Sep 24 at 13:38
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    @SebastienDErrico Malicious actions from it doing the intended job didn't work. Showing that it didn't solve the problem it was implemented to solve? Easily the reason it was removed. – IT Alex Sep 24 at 19:47
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    @ITAlex except "showing that it didn't solve the problem" was likely contingent upon its actual failure to perform (which I suspect was in turn contingent upon the intentional and unintentional tampering) – Doktor J Sep 25 at 17:07
  • @DoktorJ There is a big difference between tampering and needing constant manual adjustments because it just doesn't gather properly. Management knows the difference. – IT Alex Sep 25 at 18:33
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I very much disagree with the general tone of the top answers here which essentially amount to "give up and look for a new job".

While I agree with this being the right approach if the company is adamant about its position and so are you about yours; I would still suggest first talking to them. Not to threaten resigning over this, or to coerce them into dropping their fingerprint scanner plans, but simply as a feedback process.

If everyone who is unhappy with the new system came forward, the company might just change its mind or at least find an agreeable compromise. That's not a guarantee that it will happen, but I see no reason to skip this step and immediately look for a new job without speaking to them.

Maybe your company doesn't listen to employee feedback. Maybe it does. Maybe enough employees will raise concerns for it to sway their opinion. I can't answer any of those ifs. But it's worth addressing the issue. Whether the company responds, and whether that response is to your liking; that ball is in the company's court.

However, I do want to stress here to not mention you would leave over this. It will always come across as a coercive argument, it will not be viewed favorably, and it will put the company on the immediate defensive, which inhibits open discussion.
Don't address your "other reasons for leaving" either. Stay on topic and only discuss your concerns about the fingerprint scanner.

If after this conversation you're not happy with what happens, then you are always free to leave. You don't even have to inform them that this is what caused you to leave (though they might infer it themselves).


You are allowed to resign from any job at any time, without needing to justify yourself. This answer just wants to point out to not skip the step of having a friendly conversation about an actual concern you have as an employee. If you cut and run every time something might not be going your way without even considering to address it, you're going to spend your life cutting and running.

But at the same time I also want to point out that ultimatums are not a great way to have a conversation. Threatening to quit creates more problems than it solves. Even if you get your way because of it, your reputation will be damaged and you will have played your last resort. When another issue pops up, you have nothing left to argue with.

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    Talking with other employees about it has hidden benefits. Discussion forces others to think about the issue from an angle they may not have considered before. OP might find that many of their colleagues are inclined to support him on this. – bta Sep 24 at 19:10
  • It would be +1, generally, but I believe it is worth mentioning that the OP would quit. Just don't start from it. @bethlakshmi suggested a good way in another answer. I believe in feedback, and an infuriatingly wrong measure deserves a strong feedback. – Zeus Sep 25 at 0:50
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    OP also says explicitly that they don't want a discussion over this. I think this is a reasonable position, but it doesn't leave much space for answers that aren't "move on to a different job". Your answer is very reasonable for somebody who wouldn't mind having, and potentially being the center of, a larger discussion about the new access tracking mechanism. – xLeitix Sep 25 at 10:08
  • @xLeitix: OP's question quite explicitly explains that quitting over this is quite a jump and asks if communication should happen first. "I'm prepared to quit over this (as I was already thinking of it for other reasons). But it seems rather large of a jump. Should I talk to my manager in person, or in writing, and tell him I'm not comfortable scanning my finger print?" OP said he doesn't want to get in an argument where they try to change OP's opinion, which is completely different from you describing it as not wanting "a discussion". – Flater Sep 25 at 10:13
  • @JoeStrazzere ...which is completely different from describing it as not wanting "a discussion", which is what xLeitix said. – Flater Sep 25 at 14:32
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Is there any possibility that your manager might make accommodation for you? Just say that you're not comfortable using the machine and you would prefer to track your hours in a different fashion. He might agree. I understand that some areas are more hostile to employees than other areas, but I've personally never worked with an employer who would not accommodate a small, reasonable request such as this.

Don't state why, that is just inviting a discussion.

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    Not sure why this is attracting so many downvotes. There is no harm whatsoever in asking - the worst that can happen is that the answer is no. I would even go so far as to say that resigning without asking first is too drastic. – Jon Bentley Sep 24 at 9:38
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You should check the legal position. If it's not legal then you can simply refuse to use it and they can't fire you for it. There is also the Health and Safety aspect to consider, if it's not safe (especially with coronavirus) there could be an issue there.

If it is legal then it is probably best to just look for another job. It's rarely worth trying to "help" your current employer by giving the real reason you are leaving, it just risks blowback for no gain on your part. In the mean time you might ask for wipes to clean the scanner before use, alcohol based ones and a supply of hand sanitizer should do the trick.

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  • It's an interesting legal condition because the notice term in the contract. – Joshua Sep 23 at 19:03
  • I guess it depends on the installation date of the scanner, and what sort of notice the OP had before it was installed. – flexi Sep 23 at 19:33
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I assume you are not essential for the company in one way or another.

The better strategy is to involve your coleagues. A lot of them.

Failing that, you can get nothing by opposing a management decision some levels up.

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You can quit, but it might become a "stain" on your resume depending on what happens afterwards, and what investigations are done. As seen in this article it's legal provided they install a system with appropriate measures. They may have to provide that other methods have been ineffective, but for most employers, it will be trivial to make up an answer that will pass the level of scrutiny that most regulatory bodies will put in to it without a good reason to look deeper. The selected system will determine how your prints are read/stored.

As for the surface thing, that's also not really going to hold a lot of weight, even under the current COVID conditions. People touch things all the time. The solution is, was, and will be, for you to wear a mask, not touch your face/eyes before washing/sanitizing them. You might be able to get them to position a sanitizing station close to the scanner for use after getting scanned.

Obviously this is your choice, and questions like this tend to be closed because you're asking for an answer to a choice and sort of looking for legal advice. My $0.02 are that you will find that you're going to have to quit (and I suggest you keep your reasons to yourself) if you don't want it to happen. If you want to stay, give your prints and sanitize your hands afterwards.

Does it suck? Yes.
Are you going to find shelter under this system? No.

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    re You can quit, but it might become a "stain": or he could job hunt while staying employed. then just switch jobs to avoid any "stain" that may happen from quitting without another job lined up. – syn1kk Sep 23 at 16:49
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    Good answer, sometimes we don't like things like this but it doesnt mean you should just quit...there are bigger things that literally suck 10x more. A fingerprint shouldn't be one of them. – JonH Sep 23 at 16:56
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Putting a bit of a different spin, but probably pulling multiple answers together.

  1. You're not crazy for not wanting to go through this added measure. Your approach to your information privacy (as as sanitation concerns) is your personal decision. The world of digital scans and data retention is too new and too fast-evolving for most of the big socioeconomic systems to have fully addressed it.
  2. It would be gracious to give your boss a head's up - as others said, it's fairly coercive and probably won't go down well if the conversation is "if you do this I will quit (full stop)." - But a "hey, boss, this fingerprint scanning has me deeply concerned on a number of levels... is there a way to reach a compromise here?" - is worth the conversation. Yeah, the boss may try to convince you to change your mind. Being a leader includes trying to talk people into things... it's in his best interest if you do what they want. This is where you need to be able to stand up for your point of view.
  3. If the negotiation doesn't go anywhere, then it is polite to pivot to - "If the company implements the scanners, I will refuse to use them, even if it means I have to quit. Since any form of compromise seems impossible, what would be the correct way to make sure I've done a decent handoff of my work. I would happily give the required 2 weeks notice, but I'm concerned that if I have to use the scanner to enter the office, my departure will be more abrupt than that, as I refuse to use the scanner. Should I give my 2 weeks notice now?" -- then you're not really threatening... you're trying to implement your exit with the best grace possible.
  4. +1 to the notion that if you really want to change things while potentially keeping your job, you need to organize a larger group of people. A herd will be more effective. Doing that takes real energy, political acumen and a lot of time. If it's not worth it to you, then it's not worth it.
  5. This may be a point where HR is helpful. Like your boss, they will always work more for the company than for you (depending on your boss, maybe even more so...), but they often know more loopholes for compromise, and can speak effectively to policies like the 2 week notice and extenuating circumstances. If your boss isn't really reacting in any sort of proactive way, try HR.
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I think you are making too much of an issue of the fingerprint scanner. From the company’s standpoint, the fingerprint scanner is more secure than a badge or some other system.

As compared to badges, they don’t have to worry about lost or damaged badges and issuing temporary badges and the whole range of issues related to badges. Your fingerprint is always with you and is a fail-safe method of identity if not fool-proof.

They probably have a contingency in your contract that covers this issue anyway. If the system is more secure, then YOU are more secure. I would not worry about the privacy issue. If the company is found negligent in exposing personally identifiable information (PII), there are heavy penalties for that.

If it were me, I would register by displeasure about it to the higher-ups (in a polite way), then leave it be. On balance, you should weigh the advantages of working where you are to the disadvantages. Then make your decision to leave or stay based on that, not based on the issue du jour. It is possible that you will find yourself in the exact same situation somewhere down the line. This issue is really far down my list of priorities when I am looking for a new position. Do you really want it to be your number one issue?

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Bypass the fingerprint scanner.

Many electronic locks aren't very secure, since the companies that make them cut corners to reduce prices, as a result of people tending to buy the cheapest system. This allows you to do things like open scanners using magnets to forcibly close relays, which are basically switches that are activated using electromagnets.

Here's a video of the LockpickingLawyer demonstrating this on an HFeng fingerprint lock system, as well as another video demonstrating him doing this with an electronic keypad lock.

As a result, if you bypass the lock this way, you won't need to worry about touching the fingerprint scanning surface or granting your company access to your biometric information. This can give you time to look for a new job while still employed with your current employer, and/or to serve out your two weeks notice without compromising with them regarding the reason why you quit.

Demonstrating how easy it is to bypass might also convince management to withdraw support for the lock, as well.

Obviously, however, if doing this would be illegal in your jurisdiction, you shouldn't do it.

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    Circumventing security measures at your company seems like a good way to get yourself fired and possibly also become the target of a thorough investigation to find out whether you did this for some nefarious purpose. In the worse case you may also find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit and severely hinder your future career prospects. – Bernhard Barker Sep 24 at 9:15
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    The scanner in question is being used to clock-in/out, it doesn't sound like bypassing it will achieve anything other than getting your pay docked. Of course, there are ways you could "fake" a finger print during the initial setup, but that's really not what the question is asking. – DBS Sep 24 at 9:20
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    +1. I like this answer. It sounds like the sort of thing I would do. Most of the other answers are suggesting the OP simply leaves quietly, without even hinting at the real reason for doing so. Is that what we've come to? Meek obedient workers who slink away without making a fuss or standing up for ourselves? No! If you don't like the system then change it! If you don't do it then who will? – Aaron F Sep 24 at 15:02
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    @nick012000 You're not proposing owning a lockpick (I own quite a lot myself, it's a fun sport), you're using it without permission on the company's security system . You might want to google what the consequences for bypassing a security system without permission by the owner is, if you want to get a nice surprise. – Voo Sep 25 at 9:56
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    @nick You're really wondering whether it's legal to pick someone elses lock and bypass their security systems without permission? You're not just entering an area you're allowed in anyhow, you're also cirvumcenting their system to keep track of when you entered and left. Maybe this is just obvious to me, because I work in IT and had to listen to the legal disclaimers in every single course on IT security. – Voo Sep 25 at 10:06

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