Barclays scraps its “Big Brother” employee tracking system

March 3, 2020


Software put in place by Barclays Bank to monitor employee computer activity and breaks has been scrapped following heavy criticism.

According to Barclays, the initial purpose behind the computer monitoring software was to tackle issues such as employee burnout from over-working, increasing productivity in the workplace, and monitoring the effectiveness of employees at their desks.

The software created a report on employee activity during the working day and suggested tips to improve productivity. These tips included muting phones, disabling emails and chat pop-ups, avoiding breaks of longer than 20 minutes, and recording bathroom breaks as “unaccounted activity”. The software also determined when an employee went offline for periods of time.

Following a wave of negative publicity and criticism from staff, privacy campaigners, and HR professionals, Barclays has now confirmed that it will no longer track the computer activities of its employees.

Barclays reached the view that the software caused more harm than good because it was creating a low level of trust amongst employees of their employer. This type of damage can be difficult to rebuild and can lead to poor productivity, mistakes being made, increased absences from work, and the costs that flow from these issues.

Tips for employers in relation to monitoring employees and handling data:

  1. If you want to monitor your employees and retain information about them, you must comply with the rules and principles of the Data Protection Act 2018. Employee information in your possession must always be used fairly, lawfully and transparently for specified, explicit purposes and it must not be kept for any longer than necessary. You’ll need to ensure that your monitoring is necessary, proportionate and that the employee’s personal data is protected.

  2. Make sure that you have a clear Retention Policy in place for handling employee personal data so that employees know exactly what information you’re retaining, your reasons for doing so, what you’ll do with this information, and the measures you have in place to protect it.

  3. Ensure that your employees are informed of your Retention Policy and that they can make a subject access request in relation to the information that you hold about them.



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