• JPMorgan has developed a powerful data-collection tool to monitor its employees’ activities.
  • Employees at America’s largest bank fear what the data collection could mean for their jobs.
  • One staffer described a workplace where terms like “Big Brother” and “1984” have become commonplace.

At JPMorgan Chase, employees say watchful eyes are everywhere. 

From concerns over the use of ID swipe data to track their comings and goings, to fears about how much further the bank’s workplace surveillance extends, more than half a dozen current and former employees told Insider they’re unsettled by the company’s data collection.

Insider has learned that JPMorgan Chase built a powerful data-collection platform called the “Workplace Activity Data Utility” (or “WADU” for short) shortly before the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. It has inspired widespread suspicion and mistrust in the two years since, the workers said in interviews.

“Amongst a lot of people, you will hear the term ‘Big Brother,’ and you will hear the term ‘1984,’” said one current US-based employee with direct knowledge of the system’s functionality.

“It’s fostered paranoia. It’s fostered distrust. And, to be honest with you, it’s fostered a lot of disrespect,” this person said. “There’s a lot of sentiment around Chase that we’re just a number. That’s all we are.”

A company official pointed Insider to language on the bank’s intranet that says that the information WADU gathers is intended to shore up “business efficiency, resiliency and workplace health and safety” — and “may not be used for any other purposes,” such as “employment action.”

But employees said that they were largely unaware of such disclosures, and that, in practice, the bank does appear to have tied data collected in the system to employment action.

JPMorgan tracks a variety of data about employees

The bank tracks a variety of workplace-related data about hundreds of thousands of workers’ communications and activities throughout the day.

Tracking of individual employees’ activities begins the moment they log into their virtual workspaces until they log out. Some employees described adopting unusual behaviors to evade the system’s detection during breaks or interludes throughout the day.

For instance, the US-based employee who spoke about the dystopian book “1984” described downloading a mouse jiggler to keep the bank’s virtual workspace from automatically timing out due to inactivity. Such time-outs could reduce the employee’s overall number of hours logged, this person said. 

Another current employee within the firm’s commercial-banking division said she and her colleagues have resorted to discussing some work-related topics on forums like the iMessage app, even though doing so runs afoul of the bank’s rules governing compliant communications.

“They are becoming more like a government and less like an employer,” this person said.

For all the details on how JPMorgan Chase’s WADU system works and what kinds of data it tracks about employees, read Insider’s full story here.

Are you an employee at JPMorgan Chase? Contact this reporter. Reed Alexander can be reached via email at ralexander@insider.com, or SMS/the encrypted app Signal at (561) 247-5758.

Sign up for notifications from Insider! Stay up to date with what you want to know.
Subscribe to push notifications