Microsoft Working On Tech To Monitor How Engaged You Are At Work
Having your boss lurking over your shoulder for a few seconds is uncomfortable enough, but what if every movement you made at work was recorded and analysed?
It sounds like something out of a tech dystopia, but if Microsoft gets its way, this could be the future of office life. The tech giant has filed a patent for a system that could record employees’ body language during meetings, and ‘score’ them based on their participation.
The idea is to use sensors in a meeting room to monitor the activities of participants and provide an ‘overall quality score’ for individual workers. According to the patent, which was filed in July but only recently made public, the system could monitor body language and facial expressions, the number of times someone spoke up in a meeting, as well as speech patterns ‘consistent with boredom and fatigue.’
If that wasn’t worrying enough, the technology could also be installed on smartphones, to monitor whether people were using their devices for other things during meetings.
Microsoft say that the system is designed to improve the quality of meetings, rather than keep track of individual employees.
According to BBC News, the patent states:
Many organisations are plagued by overly long, poorly attended, and recurring meetings that could be modified and/or avoided if more information regarding meeting quality was available
But if this all sounds seriously invasive, you’re not alone. Several privacy rights groups have heavily criticised the idea, saying it would be a ‘major step back for worker’s rights.’
This type of employee surveillance software obstructs diversity in workplaces by operating on the false premise that there is a uniform, normative way that people work optimally,
A lot of surveillance tech is marketed as ‘innovative’ but in reality is astoundingly retrograde.
And just because most offices are closed at the moment, that doesn’t mean your boss can’t track you while you’re working from home too. Microsoft recently demonstrated a similar monitoring tool that collects data on individual employees use of Microsoft 365 Office tools, which include Outlook emails and Teams calls. This remote working surveillance faced similar backlash, with Microsoft defending the product by saying it was mainly designed to promote ‘digital transformation’.
There’s no word yet on when this latest productivity tool will be launched, but now might be a good time to brush up on your fake listening skills.
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