Biometrics: Hype Or Hazard For Shared Workspaces?

Is it safe to introduce biometric technologies in your workspace?
  • Biometric technology can provide a seamless member experience for shared workspaces.
  • But, with WeWork’s lawsuit, privacy concerns need addressing.
  • Operators could consider other high-tech solutions to capitalise on their data.

There’s no denying the power of data in our increasingly digital world. But in the shared workspace arena, how can you use biometrics without damaging either your business or your relationship with your members?

It’s a thorny issue. WeWork is facing a privacy lawsuit after using facial recognition technology in some of its locations. Facial recognition technology reportedly helps WeWork understand how people use some of its spaces. 

Outside of the US, regulators are still trying to get their heads around what the implications are for biometric technologies. In the UK, police involvement in a private landlord’s facial recognition trial has led to a call for government intervention, according to reports from the BBC. The EU is also eyeing up a temporary ban on facial recognition tech in public places until the legal creases have been ironed out.

Yet, we’re seeing an increasingly diverse wave of biometric technologies starting to hit our shared workspaces.

In Manchester, UK, for example, the All Work & Social coworking operator recently embraced Fingopay’s biometric payments platform. Using this tech, members can buy food and drinks by scanning their fingerprints. Each purchase is linked to their payment card accounts. 

Biometric payments platform Yombu also recently partnered with the MakeOffices coworking space network to deploy self-serve fingerprint-based biometric terminals for members

Ucommune, WeWork’s largest China rival, is reportedly a strong advocate for biometric technologies too. “Ucommune offices are something out of a sci-fi film with facial recognition and Bluetooth door locks, IoT tables, Printers connected to WeChat and a user-friendly mobile app. Mao Daqing’s company is actively integrating with the world of China tech, not only providing startups with workspaces but also encouraging in-house innovation and acquiring promising companies, all of which could turn Ucommune into a tech force to be reckoned with,” according to a recent report in Pandaily.

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Security Concerns

Privacy concerns aside, the security of user biometric data is another key consideration. In 2019, the fingerprints of more than one million people and other biometric information, including facial recognition data, were reportedly left on a publicly accessible database

“A leak of this nature is a serious affair. Biometric information cannot be changed in the same way as a credit card number, and once compromised, there is no going back,” a recent report on the BioStar 2 breach in ZDNet explained.

The knock-on effects of biometric data breaches are still being understood. For example, the rise of “deepfake” videos (where face scans can be used to create fake videos of individuals) is certainly one to watch out for. Even Mark Zuckerberg was victim to a deepfake video. 

However, there are still plenty of less-invasive ways to capture and capitalise on your member data. Yardi Kube, for example, provides operators with a self-service member and prospect portal. Essensys and Cobot also provide workspace management software to optimise your coworking space. And Kisi lets your members tap in and out of a workspace using their smart devices.

So, you may want to wait until biometric technologies (and their regulations) mature before you introduce such measures at your space.

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