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How Far Will Your Company Go to Change Your Behavior on the Clock?

messagingrobot, Flickr

You probably already know about existing employee monitoring software that can capture your keystrokes or screenshots or track which websites you visit while on the clock — but a new patent idea from Microsoft would take workplace surveillance one step further with software that can actually analyze human behavior.

Interactions during video conferences and telephone calls, in text messages and other forms of digital communication would be parsed for patterns of behavior that have been defined in advance as negative or positive — and then a score would be assigned to each person based on the system’s findings.

The patent filing describes the system as having the goal of stopping bad habits such as co-workers interrupting each other during meetings and bosses bothering people during lunch breaks. The range of possible monitored behaviors includes word phrases, body gestures, and mannerisms “such as wearing dark glasses in a video conference” or “wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting.”

The patent was filed in May but made public earlier this month. Even if it’s approved, there’s no evidence Microsoft will actually do anything with it — but privacy advocates are understandably already a bit nervous.


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