Bio-metrics at Universities
Written by Dale Murphy MSc, CSyP, Head of Security Services, University of Hertfordshire
With the ever increasing demand on Higher Educational (HE) establishments to provide an outstanding service to their students, educational Security Managers need to ensure that the service they are delivering contributes and dovetails into the establishments’ core focus of enhancing the student experience. Those antiquated days of simply providing man power to a problem have long gone for all of us and with the ever increasing demand on Security Managers to provide an outstanding service, technology advancements need to be taken seriously.
One of the biggest problems that we are challenged with within HE isn’t always about the ‘financial restraints’ that we all face, but generally more about how we achieve the fine balance between maintaining the ability of our students to go about their daily business whilst managing the increasing pressure to secure and protect our physical buildings and assets by providing ‘Smart’ Security.
Installed within this balancing act is the need to understand an individual’s right to privacy, alongside their right to maintain their freedom of speech and movement, something that every student should expect and demand whilst at University. Regardless of our specialities, every security manager will hear the cry of “Big Brother” when we consider redeployment, or an increase in our CCTV requirements. I am the first to admit that this is an important cry to acknowledge and understand. In recent years we have seen the axis of the ‘Big Brother’ concern move away from our more ‘fixed CCTV’ cameras to our security officers and emergency services wearing body worn cameras and their ability to record audial conversations. We are witnessing an increase in concern over Bio-metric technology and this being catapulted to the top of the list as a potential infringement of an individual’s civil liberties.
However, using Bio-metric technology wisely and efficiently, whilst understanding and managing the expectations of the individual, remains an important asset within our security arsenals. Would a University use facial recognition and fingerprint analysis to gain entry to a Library? Probably not, would we use this technology to monitor individuals in our public areas, again I would suggest not.
However, would we consider using bio-metrics to control access to sensitive areas such as medical laboratories and chemical storage areas? Then yes, I believe that we would. Would we replace an access control system to a more selective Bio-metric control system that would allow us to restrict access to individuals who are trained to deal with emergency situations such as an oxygen depletion system being set off? Then absolutely I would consider it. In these situations I don’t believe that we would hear many cries of ‘Big Brother’!
Bio–metrics is with us to stay. We see its use in our daily lives, from finger print recognition on our computers and other devices, to iris recognition on smart phones. As security managers we would be foolish to disregard this valuable asset and we need to embrace this important technology wisely in providing smart security solutions and using bio-metrics as an additional security tool to protect and maintain the freedom of our students, our staff and our visitors.
Can Bio metric advancements help us with this freedom? Yes, I believe that it can, will it quieten down the sceptics? Not with Hollywood’s continued portrayal it won’t. The most important thing for University Security Managers to consider is the need to ensure that we do not lose sight of our primary aim, to provide and maintain a safe and secure environment to all our students, staff and visitors without encroaching on their personal space. Used wisely and smart, then Bio-Metric technology can help us to achieve this aim.