Watching a co-worker's communications may seem Orwellian, but the experts we talked to for this story said they have never seen financial firms use the information they gathered for anything nefarious.
Indeed, even the whistleblower policy says it "is intended, not to prevent employees from whistleblowing on their employer, but to ensure that the employee attempting to distribute such information is allowed to do so through the proper channels."
"They're not doing this to be bad, they're doing this because they have to," said Darren Lee, senior vice president of archiving and governance at Proofpoint, which has been in the industry for over a decade.
Companies are merely trying to avoid the hefty fines they could face if they fail to catch improper behavior on their own. And according to several experts, many firms are barely keeping up with the stream of new communications channels and stricter enforcement.
"Email is just the tip of the iceberg," said Ken Anderson, vice president of marketing at Smarsh, another supervisory vendor. "The question is do you continue to throw bodies at it, or are there ways for technology to make it easier?"
The biggest banks spend millions every year on maintaining their communication-tracking systems and more on looking for ways to streamline their systems with cloud computing, machine learning and natural language processing. The goal is to cut back on the number of people who have to be sitting on computers all day looking at their colleagues' emails.
"A reviewer sits down at his or her desk and there are 1,500 messages to be reviewed by the end of the day, and then it happens again the next day and the next day," said Lee. "You're looking at a floor or more in a given building and all they do is supervise messages — it's very painful, and with today's technologies a machine can perform better than a human."
Experts said that in two years, the current system will be displaced by a new generation of technologies that will be able to pull out the cases of fraud, deception or insider trading for review without also lumping in thousands of mundane emails and texts and Facebook posts. Fewer false positives means fewer invasions of privacy.
Of course, there isn't much risk of fraud and corporate crime disappearing from the industry entirely.
"In the financial world, these things seem to be common," said the industry expert. "That's why I'm not a trader."