Cryptocurrency fraud sparks concerns over adoption of new tech

A headline-making workplace cryptocurrency fraud has reignited debate on how far employer policies should change to guard against the impact of evolving technologies at work.

As reported in The Guardian, a manager at Coinbase, a cryptocurrency trading platform, shared confidential information on new products with his brother in order to make a financial gain.

This is the latest in a number of stories in the media that have highlighted the impact of cryptocurrency in the workplace.

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In February, there were reports of employees wanting to be paid in cryptocurrency as the war in Ukraine broke out.

Furthermore, research published by US-based finance company SoFi in June found that 36% of US workers would be open to receiving part or all of their paycheck in cryptocurrency.

These stories are prompting many organisations to consider whether cryptocurrency policies need to evolve alongside the broader digital transformation of the workplace, such as the growth of remote and hybrid work widespread resulting from the pandemic.

Malcom Gregory, head of employment law firm RWK Goodman, said questions over whether new policies are needed to guide the use of new technologies at work should be on HR’s radar.

He told HR magazine: “Having guidance on cryptocurrency and the metaverse is fine if an employer can readily identify what issues are specifically affecting the organisation and what needs to be done to address those issues.

“However, many organisations will not need more guidance than they already have in place as even smaller companies will typically already have IT, social media, confidentiality and bribery policies. 

“If those policies are reviewed in light of any new concerns around the use of confidential or market-sensitive information, most organisations will be doing as much as they reasonably can and a new standalone policy is unlikely to be necessary.

“The idea of introducing a policy to explain required behaviours for everything currently in the news often leads to a workforce feeling overwhelmed and, in many cases, them simply ignoring the policy.”

Kevin Poulter, employment partner at law firm Freeths, added that when there are technological advances at work, such as the potential use of the metaverse, HR needs to consider how they intersect with the function’s traditional remit.

He told HR magazine: “Life in the metaverse presents most, if not all, the same opportunities and problems as any other place where people come to gather.

“Like any workplace, there must be rules to ensure it is productive, free from discrimination and protects both the employer and employees.

“As in the real world, rules, policies and expectations should be carefully considered, recorded and communicated.

“Employers who are operating in the digital world should take care to ensure employees are aware of their duties and responsibilities to their employer and to others when acting online.

“Whether there are issues of sexual harassment, discrimination, bribery or breaching regulations, it is incumbent on employers to take action when inappropriate behaviour is recognised or reported and by treating this seriously as it would for any in-person incident.”