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UK Privacy Watchdog to Probe Barclays Over Spying Claims

David Paul

,

Barclays

The bank has been accused of keeping tabs on staff members during work hours after a system change to track how employees spent their time at work.

Barclays is under investigation by a UK privacy watchdog after claims that it has been spying on its staff using invasive tracking software.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is investigating after media reported that the staff were being monitored during work hours.

Earlier this year the bank said it was changing a system called Sapience which monitored the movements of its staff while at work, which the watchdog says could be a breach of privacy.

A spokesperson for the ICO said: “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”, he added.

In 2017, Barclays received criticism after it installed the controversial OccupEye system which allowed the bank to view how long people were at their desks.

The OccupEye system introduced “smart workplace technology” which analyses office usage and “increase overall efficiency while reducing business costs,” according to their website.

The bank scrapped the system after staff complained that the software was intrusive. In February, Silkie Carlo, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, told the BBC that the system was “intrusive monitoring” and “deprived staff of privacy in the workplace.”

“Managers would never get away with breathing down employee’s necks, personally monitoring their screens or logging toilet and water breaks,” she said. “The availability of technology to [monitor] staff surreptitiously does not make it any more acceptable.”

Software such as OccupEye allows an organisation to increase productivity whilst saving on costs, but companies have also had to consider being more invasive of worker privacy during the lockdown period.

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With an unprecedented amount of staff working from home, it would be understandable that employers would want to ensure work continues to be carried out.

The rules say that, if a company discloses it is monitoring, it is allowed to use software to keep tabs on staff working at home.

In March, bosses at financial services company Axos informed employees that they would be monitored at home, saying that they would be “subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination,” if tasks weren’t completed, according to an email exchange seen by Bloomberg.

Axos spokesman Gregory Frost said in a statement at the time: “The enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue to meet quality and productivity standards that are expected from all workers.”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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