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Microsoft: a history of corporate monitoring

2 December 2010, by — admin ()

Company managers and program designers have understood for a quite long time that monitoring staff activities can seriously, and without major expense, increase their productivity and responsibility.

This has also been strengthened by the fact that the main activities of office workers are almost totally connected to computers and the internet and that together with new capabilities there have also appeared a large number of temptations (social networks, various messaging services, on-line games) and dangers (viruses, hacks and fraud).

Already by 2007 the program Employee Monitor, which we developed, made it possible to evaluate the efficiency of staff monitoring and to save and analyse logs of their work on the computer.

Large companies took (and continue to take) great interest in corporate monitoring systems. For example, one of the 7000 patents, obtained by Microsoft in 2008, described a staff biometric monitoring system.

The patented system approached the problem of monitoring from quite a different angle, however it was less ethical and legally unambiguous. Its description mentioned a set of wireless sensors controlling heart beats, temperature, pressure, brain activity rhythm and even staff facial expressions.

Using analysis of the collected data, the system should automatically detect stressful situations, psychological distress, negative emotions and even incompetence. This patent caused quite a stir in the media and trade unions, but the public did not hear any comments from Microsoft or see a model of the patented device. Today, such biometric systems are still only used in the aviation and space industries and in fire fighting.

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