3.4 min read|Categories: News|

Personal Device Surveillance: Intrusion or Evolution?


For the world of communications surveillance on regulated trading floors, the last few months of 2021 symbolised the end of the era. It was the moment when the financial regulators decided that the 10-year reign of addressing the problem of high-risk unmonitored mobile phones on trading floors with policy only was finally over. Alas, it was time to act, and with fining JP Morgan $200 million, the SEC in the US demonstrated that the new era in monitoring staff communications in regulated areas had truly started.

Whilst the regulation, obliging banks and other financial organisations to ensure that no business communications happen over unmonitored devices, has been in place since 2010, i.e., using your personal phones, in reality 9 out of 10 banks had done nothing apart from introducing a relevant policy to address the problem.

This approach is now completely antiquated, as with the pandemic, three major things have happened:

  1. Our way of working has had a global reset.
  2. Personal mobile devices are making a strong headway to our workspaces.
  3. Companies are increasingly adopting single-device policies.

These are all key factors in prompting the regulators to finally act to end the ‘laissez-faire’ attitude vis-à-vis personal mobile devices on trading floors.

Pre-pandemic, the thought of going anywhere near to somebody’s personal mobile with work related apps and other tools was such an outrageous idea that at best, it amounted to hushed side-conversations and future dreaming abruptly ended by the representatives from various banks. This very dream however has now become an abrupt reality, with the changed ways of the world and our work environments. Whether we want this or not, the new way of working means that our private and work lives are inherently intertwined, where the focus is more on getting things done as opposed to how I should deliver my work.

In the changed working world, it’s becoming clearer every day that convenience and speed supersedes rigid and outdated processes. This is especially evident among the younger generation who are brought up with devices in their hands, resulting in mobile devices truly being their identity extensions. In 2021, a whopping 87% of businesses relied on their employees to use their personal mobile devices to access company apps.

People want to have their personal devices with them for emergencies even in strictly regulated areas, and with the rapidly changed working culture, the increasing number of banks are willing to accommodate that. Surely if personal devices are now part of the modern working environment, it’s obvious that there needs to be an appropriate monitoring mechanism in place.

This all means that the traditionally slow financial world is starting to grasp a new reality with some forward-looking banks already modernising their workplaces and communications practices. The new way of working doesn’t mean that you as an employee need to expose your private information. Far from it, the new way of working means that you get to choose your tools and devices you deliver your work most efficiently from. In exchange for the convenience [of using a personal device] in regulated workplaces where surveillance is a norm, there will simply be an extra layer of measure in place to ensure the stability and integrity of financial markets.

In the era of GDPR and tougher privacy laws, the tech companies have evolved too. Surveillance today doesn’t automatically mean privacy intrusions and dictatorial measures. In the case of regulated trading floors, personal device surveillance simply means unobtrusive monitoring of the device usage and not its content.

It is safe to conclude that in this day and age, personal device surveillance is a far cry from privacy intrusion if these devices are in the proximity of sensitive market information. Making sure that markets are safe and that insider trading (or any other form of market abuse) doesn’t occur on a device brought into a regulated space, is more than common sense. It’s evolution really.

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Published: 11 January 2022

Author: Raili Maripuu

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