Policy brief

Biometric technologies at work: a proposed use-based taxonomy

Technology may not have a significant negative impact on the quantity of jobs available to humans, but it certainly transforms them, changing how jobs

Publishing date
17 November 2021

This Policy Contribution was produced within the project ‘Future of Work and Inclusive Growth in Europe’, with the financial support of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

Biometric technologies have in principle the potential to significantly improve worker productivity, security and safety. However, they are also a source of new risks, including exposure to potential personal data abuse or the psychological distress caused by permanent monitoring. The European Union lacks a coherent regulatory framework on the mitigation of risks arising from the use of biometric technologies in the workplace.

We propose a taxonomy to underpin the use of artificial intelligence-powered biometric technologies in the workplace. Technologies can be classified into four broad categories based on their main function: (1) security, (2) recruitment, (3) monitoring, (4) safety and well-being. We identify the benefits and risks linked to each category.

To be more effective, EU regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace should integrate more detail on technology use. It should also address the current scarcity of granular data by sourcing information from users of AI technologies, not only providers.

There is an untapped potential for technology to address workplace health hazards. Policymakers should design incentive mechanisms to encourage adoption of the technologies with the greatest potential to benefit workers.

Artificial intelligence users, in particular bigger companies, should be required to assess the effect of AI adoption on work processes, with the active participation of their workforces.

 

Recommended citation
Hoffmann, M. and M. Mariniello (2021) ‘Biometric technologies at work: a proposed use-based taxonomy’, Policy Contribution 23/2021, Bruegel

About the authors

  • Mario Mariniello

     

    Mario Mariniello was Senior Fellow at Bruegel. He led Bruegel’s Future of Work and Inclusive Growth project, which closely analyses the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the nature, quantity and quality of work, welfare systems and inclusive growth at large. In particular, the role of technology in reshaping society when subject to extreme stress (i.e. during a pandemic).

    Before joining Bruegel, Mario was Digital Adviser at the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC), a European Commission in-house think-tank that operated under the authority of President Jean-Claude Juncker. The EPSC provided the President and the College of Commissioners with strategic, evidence-based analysis and forward-looking policy advice. In his capacity of Digital Adviser, Mario led the EPSC’s work on Digital Single Market issues.

    Mario has also previously been a Bruegel Fellow focusing on “Competition Policy and Regulation”. From 2007 to 2012, Mario was a member of the Chief Economist Team at DG-Competition, European Commission. During that time, he developed the economic analysis of a number of topical antitrust and merger cases in the technological and transport sectors.

    Mario holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Organization from the European University Institute of Fiesole (Florence) and a M.Sc. in Economics from CORIPE (Turin). He currently teaches a course in Digital Economy at the College of Europe and has previously taught a course in European Economic Integration for Master students at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).

    Declaration of interests 2021

    Declaration of interest 2020

    Declaration of interest 2015

  • Mia Hoffmann

    Mia worked at Bruegel as a Research Analyst. She studied International Economics (BSc) at University of Tuebingen, including one semester at the Università di Torino, and holds a Master’s degree in Economics from Lund University.

    Before joining Bruegel Mia worked in the international development sector. As a Bluebook Trainee she worked at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development and previously interned at the German development bank DEG, working on credit analysis and restructuring.

    Her previous research focused on the impact of migration on economic growth and analyzed the effects of childcare policy on household bargaining. Her current research interests involve issues related to trade, labor markets and inequality.

    Mia is a German native speaker, is fluent in English and has good working knowledge in French and Italian.

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