Magazine article Security Management

Are Photo IDs Always the Right Choice?

Magazine article Security Management

Are Photo IDs Always the Right Choice?

Article excerpt

Like most mid- to large-size companies, Aetna had always issued photo ID cards to employees in its three headquarters facilities located in the greater Hartford, Connecticut, area. The company uses a card access system, so the photos were incorporated into the access cards themselves. But the program was costly and difficult to administer, and as the corporate security director, I began to wonder whether the presumed benefit afforded by the photos justified the expense.

Keeping photo IDs current created a constant demand on staff resources. For example, because of the photo requirement, we had to send an access control technician to two of the facilities on specified days to photograph employees for replacement cards. Employees had to wait days just to get their photo taken and, if they happened to be unavailable on the appointed day, they had to wait another full week. Since the photo ID was needed for access to buildings, we were cutting into employee productivity and increasing frustration levels.

The process also reduced the security department's productivity. Our access control technicians had to spend more than ten hours each week in travel and additional time at each facility, often to serve only a few people. Because this task took the technicians away from their primary workstations, the time they spent waiting for employees was unproductive.

Between new and replacement cards, we were turning out approximately 8,000 cards per year. In addition to the aggravation the process created for employees and security technicians. it was costing the company $50,000 a year in time anti material to incorporate photos on those cards. Something had to be done.

We decided to challenge the assumption that one should place photos on access cards. if incorporating a photo into the access card damaged our internal customer service levels by creating inconvenience and lost productivity for them, in addition to adversely affecting the productivity of the access control unit itself and costing $50,000 per year, then why were we doing it?

When we first suggested eliminating the photos, a chorus of voices rose up in protest, offering a variety of reasons why the photos were essential. We heard from our own staff, as well as from our internal customers. The reasons for retaining the photos fell into three categories:

* All companies had photos on their access cards.

* The photos allowed security officers controlling access at entrances to match the access card to the holder to ensure that only authorized people were entering company facilities.

* The photo allowed officers to do a face-to-photo comparison if they suspected someone was using the card of another person.

Disregarding the first point (everyone's doing it) as a poor reason to do anything, we set about analyzing the second argument. Although most employees entered our facilities through card readers at unstaffed entrances, some did enter through the staffed visitor entrances. Employees who entered through those doors were required to present their photo access card to the security officer.

What we discovered was that photos were not being examined by the security officers. Employees flashed their cards on the way past the officer: if the card looked like one of ours, no questions were asked. And rightly so. We were protecting low-risk office buildings, not facilities requiring extremely tight security. Given the threat environment, there was no reason to detain each individual for a positive match of face and photo.

In the process of analyzing this situation. we also realized that it was possible for employees from other companies to enter our buildings using their own photo ID cards. Not only were other area employers using the same size and shape ID cards as ours, but many also used the same white card with red photo background.

As employees moved through our entrance lobbies, security officers scanned for card size. …

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