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UK Watchdog Probes Barclays For Allegedly Spying On Staff - Reports

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , London , 10 August 2020

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Earlier this year, the UK bank said it was changing a software system so that it could only use anonymised software, in response to staff concerns that the system was intrusive. The software tracks computer usage.

The UK’s privacy regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, is probing Barclays over claims that the bank spied on its staff.

Earlier this year, Barclays said that it was changing a system it was piloting, which tracked how employees spent their time at work, after critical media reports accused the bank of spying on its staff, Reuters and the Sunday Telegraph reported. Reuters quoted the ICO as saying that a formal probe was being undertaken but it could not say when the investigation would conclude.

“People expect that they can keep their personal lives private and that they are also entitled to a degree of privacy in the workplace. If organisations wish to monitor their employees, they should be clear about its purpose and that it brings real benefits. Organisations also need to make employees aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring. We have an ongoing investigation relating to Barclays’ alleged use of employee monitoring tools," an ICO spokesperson told this publication. 

Barclays declined to comment to WealthBriefing when contacted on the matter. 

“People expect that they can keep their personal lives private and that they are also entitled to a degree of privacy in the workplace,” an ICO spokesperson was quoted as saying. “If organisations wish to monitor their employees, they should be clear about its purpose and that it brings real benefits. Organisations also need to make employees aware of the nature, extent and reasons for any monitoring.”

Late in February, Barclays said it was changing how it used the Sapience software so that it would now only track anonymised data, in response to staff feedback that the system was intrusive. Sapience tracks employee productivity by monitoring their computer usage.

With more employees at banks and wealth managers working from home, it is likely that firms will want to use software to ensure that staff are actually working as contracted. The remote working trend, accelerated massively by the pandemic, also raises cybersecurity risks.

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