When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea.

by Stephen Jones

Science fiction is not short of authoritarian dystopias.

In Minority Report, the 1965 short story by Philip K Dick and 2002 Tom Cruise thriller, the PreCrime Division uses the predictive powers of precogs to observe and prevent crimes before they’ve even happened. In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the totalitarian Big Brother uses Telescreens to observe and control the thoughts and actions of the subservient citizens of Oceania. 

The bosses at Barclays plc in 2020 seem to have taken some inspiration from all this, installing tracking software into office computers to monitor how long staff are spending at their desk, compiling data and issuing reports on what they’re doing and whether or not they are “in the zone”. 

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