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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Welcome to Brazil

New Scanners for Tracking City Workers

Published: January 23, 2007

The Bloomberg administration is devoting more than $180 million toward state-of-the-art technology to keep track of when city employees come and go, with one agency requiring its workers to scan their hands each time they enter and leave the workplace.

The scanning, which began in August at the Department of Design and Construction, has created an uproar at a generally quiet department that focuses on major city construction projects.

At a City Council hearing yesterday, several unions vowed to resist the growing use of biometrics — the unique identifying qualities associated with faces, fingers, hands, eyes and other body parts. The unions called the use of biometrics degrading, intrusive and unnecessary and said experimenting with the technology could set the stage for wider use of biometrics to keep tabs on all elements of the workday.

The use of new tracking technologies has been contentious at more and more workplaces. At Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, nurses carry radio-frequency identification tags that allow their movements to be tracked, a practice the nurses protested in an arbitration proceeding. A lawyer for the hospital, David N. Hoffman, said the system was used to ensure the quality of patient care and not to keep track of nurses who are on breaks.

The town of Babylon, N.Y., installed global positioning system technology last year in most of its 250 vehicles, including snow plows and dump trucks; drivers complained that the system intruded on their privacy.

Identification devices are at the frontier of debates over workplace privacy, supplanting more traditional concerns like the use of drug tests and polygraphs, said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research and advocacy organization in Washington. “New technologies raise questions about the control over disclosure of personal information,” he said.

In New York City, the use of the hand scanners is part of CityTime, an ambitious effort by the city’s Office of Payroll Administration to automate timekeeping. The city has a $181.1 million contract through 2009 with the Science Applications International Corporation to put CityTime in effect, according to the city’s public database of contracts.

Science Applications, based in San Diego, is also a supplier of high-tech services to federal military and intelligence agencies, a fact that has rankled opponents of the use of biometric scanners.

The CityTime project has been under way for about eight years, and officials say it will eventually be able to record attendance and leave requests; collect time forms automatically; coordinate timekeeping with the city’s payroll system; and allow workers and their supervisors to monitor time, attendance and leave online.

No city official appeared at the hearing yesterday, although several were invited. Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said the timekeeping project would make payroll administration far more efficient.

The Unions should fight this quasi-science like hell. Why should this be in a workplace of civilians.

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