UK’s Serco ordered to stop using facial recognition for staff monitoring

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

British multinational outsourcing firm, Serco Group, has been ordered to cease using facial recognition technology and fingerprint scanning for monitoring employee attendance in its leisure business by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 22 February 2024, as reported by Reuters.


The ICO’s investigation revealed that Serco Leisure, Serco (Jersey), and seven associated community leisure trusts were unlawfully processing biometric data for over 2,000 employees across 38 leisure facilities for attendance verification and subsequent payment purposes. 


The company failed to justify the need for such tools, ignoring less intrusive options like ID cards or fobs. Additionally, employees were not offered an alternative for clocking in and out, with biometric data being portrayed as a mandatory payroll requirement.


Despite Serco’s claim that the technology was implemented following legal advice nearly five years ago and well-received by employees, the company affirmed a serious approach and full compliance with the enforcement notice.


As of now, an enforcement notice has been issued, instructing Serco Leisure and associated trusts to stop processing biometric data for attendance monitoring and to delete any unnecessary data, which must all be enforced within three months from the notice’s issuance.

Related Reads:

Additional Information:


  • The enforcement measures coincide with the ICO releasing updated guidance in October 2023 for organizations contemplating the utilization of individuals’ biometric data. 
  • The guidelines are applicable to employers in both the public and private sectors and delineate the ways in which organizations can adhere to data protection regulations when monitoring, including legal requirements and best practices.
  • As per the ICO, nearly 19% of individuals believe they have been subject to monitoring by their employers. 
  • A significant 70% of surveyed individuals by the the ICO express that workplace monitoring would be intrusive, with only 19% feeling comfortable taking a job if aware of employer surveillance.
  • In January 2024, the French data protection authority, CNIL, fined Amazon’s French branch over £27 million for an overly intrusive surveillance system monitoring staff performance.
  • Serco Group, listed on the London Stock Exchange, is involved in providing defense, security, immigration, health, and transport services for governments.
See All