Feeds

Microsoft seeks patent on employee spy system

HR software from hell

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Microsoft has filed a patent for a system that monitors the behavior of employees via computers, phone calls, and physical gestures, and alerts human resources if anyone is behaving outside of preferred norms.

The patent describes how an increase in an employee’s trust in the boss is the equivalent to a pay rise, so to promote such feelings a computer system could be developed that monitors digital interaction in the workplace. This could be used to encourage behavior that makes employees happier and more trusting, and more in line with what the HR department views as good practice.

Or so they say.

“Organizational behaviors may be monitored, analyzed, and influenced via multi-modal communication sessions,” patent application 20110276369 reads. “Desired and undesired behaviors and applicable organizational contexts may be defined and action plans developed. The behaviors may then be monitored through communication sessions between members and analyzed for comparison to the action plans such that feedback may be provided at individual and/or organizational levels to influence the behaviors.”

Yes, patent language really is like that.

Microsoft patent-application illustration

The employee-monitoring network of tomorrow

This monitoring ranges from simple accounting for time spent on email, web browsing, and word processing, so that people aren’t interrupted when they are working, to more deeper analysis of behavioral ticks – or “tells,” as the patent calls them. These include cutting people off in conversations, making prolonged monologues, and even hand gestures – Kinect is everywhere after all – as well as wearing unacceptable clothing to a business meeting.

This data is then ranked against a corporate set of predetermined values, with possible outcomes listed as “increased efficiency, increased participation, awareness of cultural practices, increased empowerment and engagement of employees, career growth, and trust improvement.”

An example of an employee performance output display is included in the filing:

Microsoft patent-application illustration

'You feel your employer is too impersonal, please improve that'

Presumably this would make the role of the HR department so much simpler at employee-assessment time. You’d simply get an email with your results for the year, and told where there was room for improvement and who to suck up to. One could expect frantic good behavior in the weeks before review as everyone banks points against the occasional laundry day or pre-caffenne snappishness at a 6am video call.

The patent has merely been applied for, not approved, and Microsoft may not be anywhere close to developing a working system along these lines. But the thought of technology like this falling into the hands of an HR department fills this Reg reporter with deep concern.

Then again, any computer system can be gamed. It may be possible to bank up points with corporate weekend conferences, volunteer work, and extended overtime, then blow most of them by punching the boss at the Christmas party, and still end up slightly ahead on the year. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Ditch the sync, paddle in the Streem: Upstart offers syncless sharing
Upload, delete and carry on sharing afterwards?
New Facebook phone app allows you to stalk your mates
Nearby Friends feature goes live in a few weeks
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.