French data protection authority CNIL has issued a fine against company Assistance Centre d’Appel related to the use of biometric technology in the workplace. During an audit at the end of 2016, CNIL found that the company was using fingerprint timeclocks to track employee hours without prior authorization from CNIL as required by the French Data Protection Act. In France, an employer may not use biometric data to monitor employees’ hours absent prior approval from CNIL, which is only granted in exceptional circumstances. During the 2016 audit, CNIL also found that the company was recording employee phone calls without informing the employees or other call participants, and lacked adequate workstation security. While the company has since ceased the use of fingerprint timeclocks, a 2018 audit by CNIL revealed that the company had failed to properly inform telephone call participants about call recording, and that workstations remained insecure. The fine was set at € 10,000, which was based upon the partial compliance of the company and its finances. The company only employs fourteen workers. In publishing its decision, CNIL stated that it sought to remind employees of their rights and employers of their obligations, particularly with respect to biometrics in the workplace. CNIL also intended to remind companies of the consequences for failing to respond to and comply with CNIL notices of default.
Putting it Into Practice: Companies that use fingerprint systems have been focused on the cases coming out of Illinois; this fine is a reminder that these systems are regulated outside of the US heartland.