Sunday 9 August 2020 9:26 am

Barclays probed by privacy watchdog over reports of spying on staff

Barclays is being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following accusations that it spied on its staff.

The UK’s data and privacy watchdog said a formal probe is ongoing, but could not say when it may conclude.

It follows a report by City A.M. earlier this year that Barclays was piloting a system which tracks how employees spend their working hours, monitoring time spent at the desk and toilet breaks.

“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 said today.

“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.

The probe was first reported by the Sunday Telegraph.

Late in February, Barclays said it was changing how it used the Sapience software so it would now track only anonymised data, in response to staff feedback and media criticism which said the system was a breach of privacy.

Sapience gives companies “insights into work patterns” and tracks staff productivity by monitoring their computer usage.

Such systems are becoming increasingly common among banks and other financial firms, which use voice recognition and other behaviour-tracking tools to watch for unusual behaviour that could indicate misconduct.

It has also become popular as more of these firms work from home, as companies need new ways to make sure traders are sticking to regulations such as not using personal phones.

In 2017, Barclays faced widespread criticism when it rolled out a system known as Occupeye, which tracked how long people spent at their desks.