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A pair of former Wendy’s employees want to know what the company does with worker fingerprints.
Wendy’s is facing a class-action lawsuit in Illinois for the way it has collected and handled worker fingerprints.
A pair of former Wendy’s employees, Martinique Owens and Amelia Garcia, claim that the fast-food chain is in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Wendy’s uses worker fingerprints in its biometric clocks, which allow workers to quickly clock into work when they arrive, to log-into its point-of-sale system, and to clock out at the end of their shift.
Owens and Garcia’s problem isn’t that Wendy’s uses fingerprints this way, but rather that the company has not shared with employees how it stores or uses that data. BIPA stipulates that employees should be notified in writing regarding the reason and length of time their fingerprints will be collected and stored. It also requires that the company get employee permission before using their fingerprints. The plaintiffs said that Wendy’s doesn’t share how it handles former worker fingerprints after they’ve left the company. Are those fingerprint records destroyed, and if so, upon what timeline?
The plaintiffs cite both Wendy’s and Discovery NCR Corporation, the company that built the software for Wendy’s biometric clocks, point-of-sale system, and cash register systems.
In the suit, the plaintiffs are asking for equitable relief, compensation for their legal expenses, and formal clarification of whether the fast-food chain “sold, leased, traded, or otherwise profited from Plaintiffs’ and the Class’s biometric identifiers or biometric information,” according to ZDNet.
Unlike ID cards or other forms of identification, biometric identifiers like fingerprints are not just unique, but also nearly impossible to change—it’s something you’re born with. It’s why in Apple’s iPhones, for example, facial recognition and fingerprint data are stored in a secure enclave, a separate, highly secure storage area separate from other iPhone data. If fingerprint data isn’t stored or secured properly, it could leave people open to serious, irreparable privacy threats, and in this class-action suit, it appears that the plaintiffs are trying to ensure that doesn’t become the case with Wendy’s employees.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.