The university gyms USC Amsterdam (University of Amsterdam and Hogeschool van Amsterdam) and USC Leiden (Leiden University) violate the privacy of their customers. Athletes must use a finger scanning system for access, without actively offering an alternative. According to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP), this is contrary to the law.
An access system based on finger scans is not by definition forbidden, but a gym or comparable place must offer an alternative and actively inform users of this, according to the AP.
The regulator looks more closely at fingerprints and other biometric data because they are particularly sensitive. You cannot just replace a fingerprint, unlike, for example, an access pass. A scan of this data may therefore only be made if a customer explicitly agrees. That person must be well informed about this.
Both at the sports locations of the USC Amsterdam and the USC Leiden, customers are not advised of an alternative to a finger scan if they want to exercise there, according to an inventory of NU.nl among twenty student sports locations in sixteen large student cities.
USC Leiden adjusts policy, USC Amsterdam does not
In a reaction to NU.nl, a spokesperson for Leiden University said that the USC Leiden was going to adjust its policy. In the "shortest possible period", athletes can also enter without a fingerprint if they wish.
The USC Amsterdam says in a response that customers can also get a paper ticket and that the sports center thereby complies with the law. However, the NU.nl sample shows that the sports center does not actively inform customers of this.
The Dutch Data Protection Authority has stated that it will not address specific cases, but emphasizes that customers of sports locations must be well-informed about the use of finger scanning systems, among other things.
Finger scan system also in use in Tilburg and at VU Amsterdam
The Sports Center (Tilburg University, Avans Hogeschool and Fontys Hogescholen) in Tilburg and the two locations of the VU Sports Center (VU University Amsterdam) also work with a finger scanning system, but offer an alternative for this. Customers can identify themselves at the entrance to gain access to the sports facilities.
"Where others can walk through like this, we have to look up you every time in the system," explains an employee of the main location of the VU Sports Center. "You will be annoyed after a few times. I would not start."
"That is not the answer you want," says Gerrit-Jan Zwenne, professor of Law and the Information Society at Leiden University. A VU spokesperson said the university is looking into whether the alternatives are being offered "clearly and actively enough".
Does your gym, swimming pool, sauna, childcare, library or other location with access gates use a finger scan, iris scan or face scan system, without offering an alternative or actively pointing you out? Send your tip to firstname.lastname@example.org or share your contribution with NUjij.
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"Alternative may cost money"
As far as is known, a judge has not yet ruled on an issue between, for example, a gym and a client. Although a court may judge otherwise, the AP does have an authoritative role as a supervisor.
"It's not that we have a universal right to go to the gym," says professor Zwenne. He points out that people always have the freedom to use gyms without a finger scan system.
"I use a sports location of the USC Leiden in The Hague, where the system also works for the lockers. If there were extra costs associated with an alternative, they should be charged. I wouldn't make it very expensive , but they can ask a reasonable rate for it. "