PwC has come under the spotlight over a project to develop a facial recognition tool allowing clients to track finance workers’ absences from their computer screens while working from home remotely, amid concerns over privacy issues
The system will use employees’ webcams to monitor when they are away from their desk, with companies then potentially having the option to ask workers to provide an explanation for unauthorised periods of time not in front of their screen.
The Big Four firm’s plans to use facial recognition technology as part of a suite of tools to help investment banks and asset management companies meet compliance requirements were first reported by Financial News.
The software is intended for use by finance services employees, who would normally be subject to very strict compliance regulations at their place of work. Traders operating on the City’s trading floors, for example, are not allowed personal mobile phones, their calls are recorded and there are controls on who can go in and out of certain areas of the office, in order to meet regulatory requirements.
With large numbers of finance workers now working from home, there are worries that it is more difficult to monitor any potential leak of inside information.
However, the project comes at a time when concerns about the potential impact of facial recognition technology on personal privacy have been heightened as a result of its use by police forces and public authorities in the US, China and elsewhere.
In a statement, PwC said: ‘We are developing technology specifically to support the compliance environment required for traders and front office staff in financial institutions.
‘Crucially it is designed to support those adhering to the regulations while remote working, in the least intrusive, pragmatic way.
‘Trading is highly regulated and there are strict requirements for traders in the workplace - for example secure trading floors without access to personal mobile phones.
‘Regulators have stated that remote working results in a change in risk and requires additional controls and mitigations.
‘The technology we are developing can be calibrated to banks and individuals’ own needs and working hours.
‘We have also recommended to interested parties that the voluntary consent of traders wanting to work from home is essential.’