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Barclays probed by privacy watchdog over reports of spying on staff

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·1-min read
London, UK - October 29, 2013: Corporate branding on the headquarter buildings of Barclays at day in London.
Corporate branding on the headquarter buildings of Barclays at day in London. Photo: Getty

The UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is probing Barclays (BARC.L) over allegations the bank is spying on its staff, the regulator said on Sunday.

Critical media reports emerged earlier this year of the bank using software, which it was piloting, to monitor how employees spend their time at work.

News of the subsequent probe, first appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.

The ICO hasn’t yet said when its investigation will conclude, but confirmed a formal probe is ongoing.

An ICO spokesman 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 February, when the news of the new system emerged, a Barclays spokeswoman said it was changing how it used the Sapience software so it would now track only anonymised data, in response to staff feedback that the system was intrusive.

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The system gives companies “insights into work patterns” and tracks employee productivity by monitoring their computer usage.

Barclays has form for trying out productivity-tracking software. In 2017 it rolled out, and was criticised for, a system called OccupEye, which tracked the amount of time people spent at their desks.

Barclays declined to comment.