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PwC's Facial Recognition Tools To Monitor Home Workers

PwC's Facial Recognition Tools To Monitor Home Workers
16 June 2020
 

PwC faces criticism after developing facial recognition tools to track employees, but they say that the tech has been developed to support an existing compliance environment in financial industries. 

According to the report by Financial News, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ software is intended to be used to monitor employees’ absences from their computer screens, including bathroom breaks. It works through a computer webcam and would require a written explanation for long screen absences.

George Stylianides, a partner in PwC’s financial services group, told Financial News that the technology is to help finance companies meet compliance requirements during the pandemic, when much of the workforce is working remotely.

ThisWeekinFM spoke to a member of the corporate affairs team at PwC, who reinforced that this technology is not intrusive and is for a workforce normally working from secure trading floors. Rather than being a general remote working solution, it is intended as a security extension for investment banks and asset managers, who already operate under very strict Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines.

PwC is one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, and the second-largest professional services firm network in the world.

 

“We expect firms to consider what steps they could take to mitigate outstanding risks if they are unable to comply with their obligations to record voice communications. This could include enhanced monitoring, or retrospective review once the situation has been resolved.”

–Financial Conduct Authority Guidance

 

Supporting the Compliance Environment Required for Traders and Front Office Staff

 

Whilst the financial services sector is deploying its workforce remotely, it’s clear that privacy and security measures still need to be adhered to. Particularly with regards to employees who are usually working from a secure trading floor, the same high level of security still needs to be provided.

The FCA is urging such business to continue with the expected reporting and compliance, stating that: “We expect firms to consider what steps they could take to mitigate outstanding risks if they are unable to comply with their obligations to record voice communications. This could include enhanced monitoring, or retrospective review once the situation has been resolved.”

In response, PwC has built an early stage prototype aimed at helping financial institutions to continue meeting these guidelines, including the use of facial recognition technology. 

“This technology was developed specifically to support the compliance environment required for traders and front office staff. Crucially it is designed to support those adhering to the regulations while remote working in the least intrusive, pragmatic way.”

–PwC Spokesperson

PwC was keen to emphasise that such solutions are not an indication of intrusion and that the system can even be calibrated to individual working routines.

A PwC spokesperson said: "This technology was developed specifically to support the compliance environment required for traders and front office staff. Crucially it is designed to support those adhering to the regulations while remote working in the least intrusive, pragmatic way.”

 

Facial Recognition Tools to Monitor Home Workers is “Not The Answer.”

 

Angela Love, Director at Active Workplace Solutions, a company which specialises in workplace change, has commented that using “facial recognition tools on an already confused and anxious workforce is not the answer.”

Love instead highlights the importance of employees feeling valued and trusted throughout this difficult time:

“COVID-19 has presented new challenges in managing unseen workers. However, facial recognition tools to monitor home workers is not the answer. I would never advocate such an approach. 

“This simply screams ‘we don’t trust you’. If an employee believes they aren’t trusted then a business will never get the best out of them."

However, in the highly regulated world of finance and trading, the use of facial recognition technology could simply be considered as an additional "new normal" measure for a workforce already very acclimatised to a high level of workplace monitoring.  

Picture: A graphic image representing facial recognition software, showing a person's face being scanned

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 16 June 2020

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