Microsoft Product to Monitor Workers Through Their Computers

Posted on January 16, 2008

Microsoft has filed a patent for a system which would allow employers to monitor employees' physical states through their computers or laptops.
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker's productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees' performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer's assessment of their physiological state.

Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a "unique monitoring system" that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read "heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure", the application states.

The system could also "automatically detect frustration or stress in the user" and "offer and provide assistance accordingly". Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker's weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.
This is the most obnoxious, appalling invention from Microsoft yet. The privacy implications alone are mind-boggling. And if the economy slides into recession and the unemployment rate keeps rising, future workers will have no choice to submit to such intrusive monitoring if they want a job.

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