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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fine Arts Museums Threaten Workers' Information Security, Union Says

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 4:19 PM

click to enlarge FLICKR / KANAKA MENEHUNE
  • Flickr / Kanaka Menehune
UPDATE 2/26/15 Ken Garcia, spokesperson for the Fine Arts Museums, responds to the union's claims that the biometric time-keeping system is an invasion of the museum employees' privacy. Read his statement at the bottom of the story.

Just as museum guards were about to line up, dip their thumbs onto a virtual ink pad and give out perhaps their most sensitive personal information to an outside company, their union said, no — let's march on City Hall.

The Fine Arts Museums plans to require about 160 guards to hand over their thumbprints to a third-party company. The Service Employees International Union 1021 continues to counter the move — the FAM has tried to fingerprint their workers before — on the basis that the times employees check in and out  of work could be done through less invasive means.

SEIU 1021 organized a march on City Hall at noon today to ask the Board of Supervisors to disallow the use of biometric time clocks for city workers, following suit with laws in places like New York and Massachusetts. About 250 union and community members delivered oversized letters to the mayor and Board of Supervisors requesting that museum workers not be fingerprinted.

The De Young and Legion of Honor museums first implemented the thumbprint time clocks last August in October 2012 after the Board of Supervisors required them to tighten up time keeping and overtime usage, said SEIU 1021 Regional Director David Canham. The union fired back with charges against the museums, citing a city administrative code that says city worker's information cannot be passed to private, third-party companies.

Since then, Canham said, museum employees who are city workers have only been required to punch in for work with unique identification codes (workers on the non-profit side of the museums have continued to clock in with their thumbs). But that is likely to change soon, as the museums contracted with a different third-party company, Kronos, LLC, to operate their time keeping.

"We worry that if they implement it in museums they're going to make the argument to roll it out in other city departments," Canham said.

Biometric, or thumbprint, time clocks are problematic for workers and the union, SEIU 1021 vice president Larry Bradshaw said, because they pose a potential security threat to workers' personal data.

"They feel that because of the security breaches that have been happening across the nation we shouldn't be giving confidential information to third parties," said Carlos Rivera, spokesperson for SEIU 1021.

Just look at the Department of Defense, or major corporations such as Sony, which have been hacked, Bradshaw said.

But museums want their money's worth from the biometric time clocks, which they've already purchased, Bradshaw said. Luckily for them, he added, employees can also punch into those same clocks with unique codes or cards.

"Keep your machines and use any of the other technology," Bradshaw said, adding that cameras are everywhere in the De Young and Legion of Honor. Administration would know if someone cheated the clock.

Canham said the guards see the move by the museum's management as just another way of treating the workers as criminals.

"There's a racial component of criminalizing the workforce," Bradshaw said. "The guards at the museum are primarily African American."

Bradshaw estimated that the museum guards are 80 to 90 percent people of color, while the administration is largely white.

"The management there is just extremely vicious," Canham said. "They're very, very anti-worker."

A spokesperson for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco was not immediately available for comment.

UPDATE: Ken Garcia responds:
There is no “privacy’’ issue with our time clocks. The system uses a fingerprint that it translates into a mathematical representation like a binary number. No personal information is stored on the time and attendance database other than the name of the employee, the Disaster Service number and the mathematical algorithm of the fingerprint scan. The reason that high-security institutions like ours use biometric systems is that they can’t be fooled, and as the caretakers of the city of San Francisco public art collection, such precautions are necessary.

Biometrics are hardly a new technology and today they are commonplace – they use them at 24 Hour Fitness. The union has expressed concern about biometric systems being used citywide, but we have no say in what the city does. This is just in our best interest for our institution as the caretakers and guardians of San Francisco’s precious art collection.

As for the allegations of racial bias, Garcia says: 
Nothing could be further from the truth. . . Race has nothing to do with it. Nor does sex, or gender or religion. . . 

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