OK, Now This Is A Little Scary: Microsoft Biometrics

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bigbrother.jpgMicrosoft has lodged a new patent for a system that can track a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

According to The Times, who has seen the patent:

[the patent is 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.

The Microsoft patent details a “unique monitoring system” that includes wireless sensors that read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure.” Further, the system would “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that the employee needed help.

The Times refers to the system as being “Big-Brother like” and the Orwellian reference is correct. Imagine a world where those who went to work were constantly monitored by their employers, where getting excited privately by an attractive fellow employee could end up in a sexual harassment claim, or even privately being unhappy by someone in management may automatically result in intervention and retraining. I can’t speak for everyone, but at least in my own case: Don’t Want.

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