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Microsoft

Microsoft to Spy on Employees 305

4T writes "Forget about monitoring your computers with spyware, now they're going to monitor the users as well! '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.'"
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Microsoft to Spy on Employees

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  • by FudRucker (866063) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:34AM (#22066130)
    http://www.visar.com/AssistedSuicide.gif [visar.com]

    anything like this?
    • No, come on, it will be done Office 2007 style ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Idaho (12907)

        No, come on, it will be done Office 2007 style ;-)


        Ahhh, you mean involving a ribbon, which you could use to hang yourself?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          If 'hang' means wander about endlessly looking for a simple feature, sure.
          Most would have said 'starve' in that context, but the First Ammendment is a beautfiul thing.
          I suppose we can expect a precipitous drop in /. postings from companies with this stuff implemented...
      • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:14PM (#22067526)
        It looks like you're trying to kill yourself!

        Would you like help?

        * Get help with killing yourself.

        * Just kill yourself without help.

        O Show me this tip every time I start to show signs of optimism.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by erpbridge (64037)
      I noticed, one of the options there in that pic was death by Pastry. What a horrible way to go...
    • "The system could also "automatically detect frustration or stress in the user" and "offer and provide assistance accordingly"."

      I can't believe they actually added that to the patent filing. Just what every coder wants. Every few minutes some big brother style paper clip poping up on the screen asking them if they need assistance.... Or maybe a few streches.
  • I thought they already were spying on their employees.
    • by dintech (998802)
      All those strange files in Windows Update and Genuine Advantage actually install a tiny webcam into your display unit. We're watching you.
  • Wait a second (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:37AM (#22066172)
    Wait a second here... so this is being developed by Microsoft employees... FOR microsoft employees???? It's a wonder anybody still has any desire to work there.
    • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Insightful)

      by faloi (738831) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:48AM (#22066314)
      Don't get your hopes up. The title is sort of misleading. It's being developed by Microsoft employees for everybody. You can bet that it would likely sell.

      But I like to believe that we might yet hold on to some Constitutional rights that would really put a damper on this thing.
      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:52AM (#22066372) Journal
        Don't worry, we'll just outsource the wearing of our biometrics to people in southeast asia.

        Time to make outsourcing work for us!
      • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:01AM (#22066472) Journal

        But I like to believe that we might yet hold on to some Constitutional rights that would really put a damper on this thing.

        Don't get your hopes up. They'll use the same argument they used for workplace drug testing, i.e: If you don't like it, go work somewhere else.

        If they can demand my urine and credit score, why not my heart rate?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *
          Urine and credit score can be argued to be relevant to employment. It's hard to see how a level of monitoring this invasive could slip by in a non-secure industry, or one that doesn't depend on operator health for safety.
          • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Insightful)

            by AeroIllini (726211) <aeroillini@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:05PM (#22067396)

            Urine and credit score can be argued to be relevant to employment. It's hard to see how a level of monitoring this invasive could slip by in a non-secure industry, or one that doesn't depend on operator health for safety.
            Actually, I would argue that it's the other way around.

            What I do in my spare time outside the office has absolutely no bearing on my job until it effects the productivity of work. Drug tests are an indirect measure of productivity, using the assumption that "drugs == bad worker". I disagree with that logic, and think that drug tests should only be administered if the worker's performance is clearly impacted. If there's no performance impact, then what the hell does the company care what I do outside work? (I know that's not the attitude many companies have, but it's the attitude I have.)

            A credit score is a little more of a stretch, but using the logic "bad credit == deadbeat", it could be a stand-in for proper hiring practices.

            However, this software will eliminate both of those indirect methods of measuring productivity because it will be able to directly measure it. And productivity, after all, is what the company ultimately cares about.

            I don't agree with using this technology, but that's the rationale companies will use.
        • by Afty0r (263037)

          Don't get your hopes up. They'll use the same argument they used for workplace drug testing, i.e: If you don't like it, go work somewhere else.
          And what's wrong with this? If a company demands random drug testing I do go and work somewhere else. I've got nothing to hide in this respect (I'm 29 and haven't had anything to hide on that front for many years) but I still wouldn't work for a company that has that kind of culture.
          • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:01PM (#22067318) Journal

            And what's wrong with this?

            Because they threaten you into compliance by threatening your livelihood and not everybody has the option of switching jobs?

            Hell, short of threats of physical violence, I'm hard pressed to think of a nastier thing to do to someone then threaten their livelihood.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by cthulu_mt (1124113)

          If you don't like it, go work somewhere else.
          I'll just go play Major League Baseball then.

          Take that!
        • Re:Wait a second (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @12:21PM (#22067622)
          I work for Microsoft ( in Europe ), good luck implementing this :)

          We cannot agree on the colour of shit never mind getting something like this to work :)

          Most of the time our employees are STUDENTS and our employee churn is so fast that we have a revolving door.

          MSFT's employee ID's are near half a million, they are UNIQUE per employee in their entire LIFETIME. THat is how many employee's they have been through in the past 5 years (back then it was in the low hundred thousands).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        But I like to believe that we might yet hold on to some Constitutional rights that would really put a damper on this thing

        That's fine if you work for the government, but the Constitution doesn't apply to corporations. The Constitution sets up the method of government and bestows powers and obligations to government.

        The first amendment, for example, says you have freedom of religion. It doesn't say that your employer can't restrict prayer in the workplace.
    • Re:Wait a second (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ajs (35943) <ajs@aj[ ]om ['s.c' in gap]> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:00AM (#22066452) Homepage Journal
      Why does no one stop to think about these things?

      So, a patent was filed for a system that could be used to assess the physiological state of employees in order to measure performance. Right. So, who would be the target audience? Financial firms? I don't think so. On the other hand, deep sea divers would benefit from such measures. These are people who get paid an astronomical amount of money to do incredibly dangerous work. If their jobs could be made slightly safer, it would be a huge win, and well worth a large expense.

      What about professional athletes? Is player number 73 about to collapse from the strain? Is he too hung over to play? Pay someone six or seven figures for their physical performance and you care about that sort of thing.

      Everyone instead leaps to, "my manager is going to be putting my heartrate on my review!"

      Sigh.

      • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Informative)

        by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:06AM (#22066524) Journal

        Everyone instead leaps to, "my manager is going to be putting my heartrate on my review!"

        Maybe you should RTFA? They aren't aiming this at sports figures and deep sea divers. To quote:

        Technology allowing constant monitoring of workers was previously limited to pilots, firefighters and Nasa astronauts. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces.

        Another interesting quote:

        The system could also "automatically detect frustration or stress in the user" and "offer and provide assistance accordingly".

        Great! I can just see it now. Clippy pops up on my screen: "It looks like you are extremely frustrated with your current job? Would you like my assistance in composing your resume?"

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Otter (3800)
          Maybe you should RTFA? They aren't aiming this at sports figures and deep sea divers.

          This is a patent application. (I love how the Times acts like it's some secret document they've obtained!) No patent attorney in his right mind drafts an application that says "This would be useful for X and Y, but we're sure not claiming any applicability to A, B and C!"

          Anyway, let's wait five years and see whether Microsoft workers are, in fact, hooked up to heart monitors. You can bet on the evil of M$$$$, I'll bet on j

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Shakrai (717556) *

            The idea of monitoring user frustration via keystrokes and responding accordingly, BTW, has been discussed here for years, and it's a great idea if it could be made to work correctly.

            Yes, because the random drug testing, use of credit reports, and monitoring of activities outside of the workplace isn't enough. My boss should get an automated message if some line of code deems that I'm "frustrated" because my keystroke pattern changes.

        • by B3ryllium (571199)
          "It looks like you are having a heart attack. Would you like to:
          1) Call a Whambulance
          2) Keel over already"
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by clickety6 (141178)
          Clippy pops up on my screen: "It looks like you are extremely frustrated with your current job? Would you like my assistance in composing your resume?"

          It looks like your heart rate has dropped below 200 bpm.
          Would you like some more coffee?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zappepcs (820751)
        I'm thinking that if they wanted to go to the 'heart rate on the review' end of things it would be most interesting to see everyone from mid-manager level upwards on the machines too.

        Of course this might also work for that woman who said "help, I've fallen and can't get up" and others like that. I'm sure that if this is not already in use in Japan, it soon will be. They are doing a lot to assist their aging population.

        OTOH, if you are required to be monitored to get behind the wheel of your car, that could
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gsn (989808)
        RTFA

        Technology allowing constant monitoring of workers was previously limited to pilots, firefighters and Nasa astronauts. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces (emphasis mine).
        Of course people are going to overreact and rightly so - it is a privacy nightmare. I don't think it will ever actually be implemented but that never stops a company from patenting something does it.
      • re: wait a second (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ed.han (444783)
        you're seeing that reaction b/c quite simply, those are all endeavors in which a given person's health and psych state are all monitored quite carefully. considering that employers routinely run a credit check on prospective employees and the fact that all AUPs that i've ever seen say right up front that an employee has no expectation of privacy, i don't think that the reaction is unjustified in the least.

        maybe you're right. maybe it's just the usual anti-M$ slashdot reaction + pro-privacy sentiment that
      • by jav1231 (539129)
        And what about factors that the system couldn't account for? Like someone like Lance Armstrong. He gets yanked from his bike because he's about to collapse only to find out his heart rate is naturally above normal due to an abnormally large heart. That's just the tip of the iceberg. There are far more privacy implications here. For all those who lament the Bush administration, this shit should scare the hell out of you!

    • I'm sure "chair throwing" will be overlooked. Well, at LEAST from the executive part of Microsoft.
  • by ironwill96 (736883) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:38AM (#22066182) Homepage Journal
    I think Microsoft probably has hundreds of patents for things they don't ever intend to actually make, but just in case someone else does they want to be there to make a buck off of licensing. I highly doubt that they actually think this type of software would currently be accepted in today's climate, at least not unless they call it something innovative like "The USA Health-watch Patriot Software". I've found that its important to include the word "Patriot" in all aspects of your life, it really just gets you instant approval to do whatever you want!

    Well, i'm off to use my iPatriot computer and drive my Patriot Chevy to the Patriot Meeting this afternoon. Come to think of it, thats probably why New England is winning so much, everyone else just needs to put Patriot in their team name!
    • by tha_mink (518151) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:48AM (#22066318)

      I think Microsoft probably has hundreds of patents for things they don't ever intend to actually make, but just in case someone else does they want to be there to make a buck off of licensing.
      Not only that, but I actually think this kind of software would have greater value in situations like airline pilots and freight train engineers. In fact, for freight train engineers, there exists an alarm system that sounds every 10 minutes that they need to manually reset. If they don't reset the alarm and it times out, then the brakes are applied, the train stops and emergency personnel are notified. So as far as that goes, I could see the value in this type of software for that type of operator.
      • I've read the whole thread to this point and this is the only post that points out this kind of technology could actually be used for good.

        I could see Microsoft producing the evil version of it, but I couldn't see them using it on their own employees. It's just too contrary to their (internal) corporate culture and the Kool-Aid they coax their employees to drink.
    • by t0rkm3 (666910)
      Jeep Patriot... IF you're going to be a goofball, at least be an accurate goofball.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:40AM (#22066204)
    Given how much my blood pressure skyrockets under the influence of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, I'm not sure that MS really will want this data due to liability issues. If MS collects data that shows that MS products reduce the health and wellbeing of users, that makes MS more culpable for those products. Of course, IANAL so maybe a new "not responsible for user's health" section of the the EULA will cover MS legally.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:41AM (#22066230)
    The check on metabolism could be useful. Someone could die in this office and nobody would notice for a week.
    • Sorry, my heart is only beating rapidly in anticipation of moderation adversely affecting my slashdot karma.
    • by aztektum (170569)

      Someone could die in this office and nobody would notice for a week.
      Sounds like your company could stand to update it's ventilation. We had a guy die here and no one noticed for almost 3 weeks, thanks to a new air filtering system.
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan@jared.gmail@com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:42AM (#22066238)
    There's an easy way to game the system and get it to read out that you are functioning at near infinite productivity. The system is set to handle all motions that resemble throwing a chair as super-productive. I hear it is a zeroday that has to do with the model they used for peak effeciency.
  • if it could monitor the rise in heartbeat, perspiration and body temperature every time the attractive blonde contractor walks part it could no doubt head of harassment claims as well.

    on a more serious note, I wonder if it could automatically monitor responses after an email is opened and detect office conflict or romance in the offing.
  • I wonder what the employers will think when they find such a high percentage of their employees seem to be disgruntled? Or if they end up not using the software because they wouldn't be able to employee anybody if they did?

    Transporter_ii
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aadvancedGIR (959466)
      You're too optimistic. No matter how hard you set the threshold, you'll always find people willing to ruin their health just to keep a shitty job. Plus, bad product is always caused by bad employees, never by bad management.

      From experience, I'd say the only employee feedback that the HR directors understand well is waiting for them in the parking lot with a mask and a baseball bat, preferably with dozen of coworkers so you benefit from the emulation.
      • It is like self fulfilling prophecy. You use hidden cameras, key loggers, hook the employee up to heart monitors and watch their facial expressions, install GPS in their vehicles, tell them what they can't do when they aren't even at work, watch facebook and myspace in case someone slips up and has a little too much fun...and then they can't grasp why they can't find any good, happy employees.

         
  • Oddly enough I was working on the same thing as me entry in Microsoft's ImagineCup. Guess that's out the window. The article is largely ignoring the important benefits of such a system. Tracking basic vital signs can be an important tool for monitoring and eventually maintaining employee health. The computer can tell the user if they have been sedentary too long. Employers can track the effects of the work environment on users.
    • Given the HR practices in some places I've worked, I'd say that anyone who is not in the red will be tagged "lazy bastard, find any reason to fire him ASAP". And I'm dead serious, leaving the building to do some sport during lunchbreak was almost on par with being drunk on the job and I've seen someone being fired for showing up at 9H15 instead of 9H00 (the fact that he worked 4H of unpaid overtime the night before to cope with a last minute issue was obviously not on the same ground as the 1/4H he stole fr
    • by chthon (580889)

      Nah, this is the first step to the SoulSucker 3000.

      • That comment succintly summarizes my entire response to this subject in far fewer words than I could have ever done myself.
  • by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:43AM (#22066258) Homepage Journal
    This reminds me of the chapter in Snow Crash that focuses on YT's mom's job for the feds. Federal employees have to constantly take lie detector tests and all emails have a suggested reading time. If the employee reads a note faster than expected, they're probably skimming and not taking in all the information. If the employee takes too long to read, then they're probably slow or distracted. It was a great chapter tucked into the middle of the book.
  • by jackpot777 (1159971) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:46AM (#22066286)
    So Microsoft will know if your heart races because you saw something you shouldn't have, because you saw something that reveals you know too much, and they'll know if you are trying to cover up your panic instead of exhibiting a "WTF is this?" response?

    Hmmmm.

    Reminds me of some bloke I heard about once. Winston, I think his name was. Got fed information about something he shouldn't have known about at work, so his employer tested him out by slipping him a photo showing a meeting that should never have taken place. Winston reacted with instinct instead of controlling his emotions, which were observed... which eventually led to his incarceration, torture, and psychological breaking. Once that had happened, he was done in.

    Funny story. Maybe someone should write a book about it. Or make a film.
  • by dkarma (985926)
    The only things it monitors is biometrics such as heart rate, etc? Well then why not add a camera. I mean how will they tell the difference between raised heart rate and breathing from work exertion compared to that of furious masturbation? I wouldn't be surprised if they start canning employees for "working" a little too hard wink wink nudge nudge. Also sounds a little soviet to me.... In soviet russia computer monitor you!
  • by Malevolent Tester (1201209) * on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:48AM (#22066316) Journal
    For once, I'll be glad to give IT help to our female temps.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:49AM (#22066332)
    ... knowing about the functioning of my kidneys!

    *yank*
  • ...but funny just the same. I believe they are submitting the patent for the technology that would allow themselves or other corporations to do the spying. I assume the ACLU and employees will have some objections to this actually being done, at least if it is do be done surreptitiously.
  • -Monitor cardio and tell the user when they have been sedentary too long.
    -Monitor worker's biological response to the workplace environment and adjust as necessary.
    • by tinkerton (199273) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:36AM (#22066942)
      1. monitor cardio and take turns visiting subject. The player achieving highest heart rate and blood pressure with the subject wins.

      2. the same, but now you're only allowed to use the phone.

      3. monitor keyboard activity. The goal now is to cause the longest possible pause without the subject leaving the cubicle.
  • If Microsoft (or any other company employing this software) were to fire somebody based only on the data from this software they would be fools of the highest order. The data would be, I would hope, supplementary data to back up more traditional firing criteria - poor reviews, documented reprimands, etc.

    BTW, one thing that stood out to me in TFA was:

    "The system could also "automatically detect frustration or stress in the user" and "offer and provide assistance accordingly".

    Forgive my cynicism, but t

  • by irexe (567524) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @10:59AM (#22066440)
    ....as a civillization, didn't we already pass this point more than a century ago [wikipedia.org]?
    • by Miseph (979059)
      According to your own link Taylorism was both highly influential on newer management theories and is still in widespread (if unpleasant) use in many industries.

      So no, we probably haven't.
  • How long before they start to bill workers with hi hart rates / Blood Pressure more for there health care / take it away?
    • They won't until the health insurance company gets their greedy little hands on the data. Keep in mind that most companies do not actually provide their own health insurance, opting instead to purchase it through a normal insurance company. Because of the way group health insurance works, it is not in the interest of a company to share this data with the insurer unless the insurer creates one (which would probably be illegal).

      Employee's of health insurance companies, however...
      • by acvh (120205)
        Actually, many employers use self-funded health plans. These plans are administered by health insurance companies and most employees have no idea that the employer is actually funding the costs. The only time actual insurance kicks in is when a stop-loss figure is hit.
  • by MindPrison (864299) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:02AM (#22066484) Journal
    Security-Central: Looks like we have a dropper again..
    Monitor1: User death imminent.
    Monitor2: OK, notify MicroMorgue to fire up the incinerator, and dispatch two lawyers to deal with the family members. Send the wife a complimentary vista discount cupon.
    Monitor1: Wait, he moved...
    Monitor2: HOLD, ignore that MicroMorgue order and get the lawyers back to the Antitrust dep. again.
    Monitor1: Hes fine, great. Another buck saved, however Thompson in dep. 2 doesnt look entirely healthy.
    Monitor2: Inject 1500 MG of Vitamin-C in Subject 7271 Sector 1G, cubicle 1235.
    Security-Central: Injecting vitamin-C now, #1000001, (Blue Screen of Death)
    Monitor2: What the He..?
    Monitor1: Cr*p! The d*mn machine broke down during the vitamin-c injection.
    Monitor2: Uh, oh.... Thomson is running around naked, and thats no joystick...
    Monitor1: Run the backup servers and have him injected with 15 mg SleepWell 2000.
    Monitor2: The backup servers are runnin Linux...
    Monitor1: Were screwed!
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:04AM (#22066494)
    ... when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.


    Oh wait ...

  • from April 1. Because this sounds like an April Fools joke.

  • Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker's productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

    This is just what MS needed to bolster their sagging image. Product activation, DRM, back-stabbing EULA's and file format lock-in just weren't getting the job done. No, they needed something...something to take corporate dickish intrusion to the next level and beyond. Something that would cement the perception that they have completely lost touch with the last th

  • by smitth1276 (832902) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:07AM (#22066540)
    I suggest you all note that the only words quoted from the patent itself were "unique monitoring system" and "heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure"... I strongly suspect that there is a less-than-honest reason that the author saw fit selectively edit the excerpts in those particular places.

    You can leap to your paranoid conclusions based on nearly nothing, but I am going to go with the more reasonable, intelligent, thoughtful assumption that it is actually software to allow hospitals to more cheaply monitor patients using a PC-based solution--until I hear otherwise, of course. (Though I do think it reflects VERY poorly on most of you that you so willingly swallow whatever line the media feeds you.)
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:08AM (#22066556) Journal
    Google announced that it is developing a monitoring program that is fully web based that runs on all platforms and claims this patent does not cover the web application. Open Source community cites numerous prior art to argue the patent will be null and void. The cited prior arts are:

    1. Dr Chaplin, Charles, Modern Times, 1932. 2. Mr Orwell, George, 1984, 1948.

  • by MECC (8478) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:09AM (#22066572)
    This brings on a new meaning to the phrase "fired due to a computer glitch".

  • by clckwrk (1220420) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:09AM (#22066576) Homepage
    Google employees build things like gmail and calendar during the 20% time, MS employee decide to build an employee monitoring system. Talk about having to eat your own dog food. These employees are like the kid that always reminded your teacher on Friday to assign homework.
  • by Original Replica (908688) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:15AM (#22066634) Journal
    This is s sign that both employers and employees have bought into the hierarchal structure of business a little too much. The employer is hiring you to do a task not purchasing your mind, body, and soul. Yet all to often that's what they are given, so all too often that's what they expect. i.e. How often is a boss who is a complete dick called "sir" or "Mr." and treated with deference? Are Unions the only people left who really understand and act on the fact that the bossman needs the employees more than the employees need him? Yes, "employees" is plural on purpose.
    My employer is quite right to monitor and judge the output and quality of my work, and when applicable to monitor how I effect the public image of the company and the work environment for my fellow employees. None of that includes my heart rate or my general state of health. I'm already being forced to contend with a nanny government, I don't need a nanny work environment as well.
  • Obligatory quote... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vexler (127353) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:15AM (#22066644) Journal
    CAPCOM - GOLD
    - Uh, Thirteen. This is Houston. Jim, we just had a drop out
    on your biomed sensors?

    JIM LOVELL
    - I'm not wearing my biomed sensors, Houston.

    CAPCOM - GOLD
    - Okay, Jim. Copy that.

    DR. CHUCK (FLIGHT SURGEON)
    - Flight. Now I'm losing all three of them!

    GENE KRANTZ (FLIGHT DIRECTOR - WHITE)
    - It's just a little medical mutiny, Doc I'm sure the guys
    are still with us. Let's cut 'em some slack, okay?

  • While I do find this alarming, I can't help but thinking, it'll never happen. We love talking about "Big Brother" and predicting the rise of the despotic over-lord megacorporations. Yet, it continues to not happen. Do you know why? It's because we won't let it happen. If I worked for a company and they started doing this sort of thing. I would quit. I would go work for a company that respects me. A lot of people would do that. I refused to sign our employee agreement because I found it to be inappr
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:26AM (#22066788) Homepage
    ...and will this software be installed on their computers? To monitor their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure?

    After all, "stress and frustration" have more serious consequences if they lead to bad decision-making.

    How about generals? How about the Commander-in-Chief? Isn't their "productivity, physical wellbeing and competence" important?

    Why do I somehow think that it is not going to be installed on any management machines... and that the stated rationales are pretexts?

  • What's the Baseline? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superdan2k (135614) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:28AM (#22066824) Homepage Journal
    As an endurance athlete with a freakishly low resting heart rate (42 bpm), I can tell you that every time I go to a new doctor they freak right the hell out around the time of my first physical. They tell me that I have an enlarged left ventricle and that I "obviously have heart disease"... Doc? Did you notice that I'm also about 5% body fat, have ripped legs, and a funny-looking tan? Yes. I'm an endurance geek. Yes, this fucks up your baseline.

    When my heart rate is elevated due to office stress, it might jump into the 60s. This is going to screw with your readings.

    Furthermore, isn't this more-or-less just a wireless polygraph where you're looking at data without asking questions? Where the hell is the accuracy in that?
    • by Ihlosi (895663)
      They tell me that I have an enlarged left ventricle and that I "obviously have heart disease"... Doc? Did you notice that I'm also about 5% body fat, have ripped legs, and a funny-looking tan?

      Your doc's more right than you may think. You may not have any problems right now, but you're going to run into trouble with the ol' pump as soon as you can't keep up your workout (for whatever reason - lack of time, other health problems, whatever). At that point, your heart muscle mass will decrease, but your vent

  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:38AM (#22066962) Journal
    Sure, physical attributes like heart rate, blood pressure, etc. might be a good indicator of physical "productivity", but I'd sure like to know how or if it correlates to the overall productivity of someone creating intellectual property.

    I am sure you can match biometric data to how many widgets are produced, or even if your driver is likely to be alert (e.g. performing at a higher safety level.) But how can you tell if they are writing good, persuasive prose for that proposal, or cranking out good code or buggy crap that is ultimately negative productivity?

    Collect all the data you want, just don't act on that data alone. You will probably find that different people are productive in different ways. One guy might produce 1/5 of his weekly product each day of the week and another might screw around reading Slashdot and watching YouTube, then produce an equal amount of work coding all night a couple of days a week.

    I think the utility of such monitoring will depend on the task at hand more than finding "perfectly productive" workers.

  • It is clear that this is a plot by MS to cut down on staff. "How can we make our workplace as hostile as humanly possible?"
  • What a great idea. I cannot wait to see the data Microsoft uses to drive their EPS (Employee Productivity Service)!

    What are the metabolic differences in human beings in front of computer screens showing:

    - Java or C# code with an uninitialized pointer on line 336

    - Porn

    - The last 2 minutes of an eBay auction

    - An e-mail from the CEO forecasting layoffs

    - A memo from the pointy-headed boss about a project you have to do that will add nothing to the sum of human knowledge

    - Sixty minutes after a dep

  • There's already a similar patent [freepatentsonline.com]

    Who needs heart rate monitoring when you have one of these [urometrics.com]
    All MS needs to do is hook their employees up to one of these and monitor the angle and pressure. That'll cut down on porn surfing, inter-office liasons and daydreams of Natalie Portman. That'll increase productivity alone.

  • by elronxenu (117773) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:54AM (#22067222) Homepage
    ... and to enable peak physical monitoring, the employees will lie down in a tube filled with fluid. Monitoring connections will be attached at the back of the head. Regular nutrition will be available. *Note special conditions.

    * Special conditions: the employee agrees that any excess electricity generated by the employee in the patented chamber will be available for use by the Company, at no charge.

  • by chord.wav (599850) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @11:54AM (#22067230) Journal
    The system would allow managers to monitor employees' performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure.

    I propose the Ballmer scale. All these measurements combined add up much as SpamAssasin rating system.

    0.0. Normal state, even slightly happy.
    0.1. Slightly upset, nothing to worry about.
    0.2. Upset. Something's going on with this guy but he won't make it evident.
    0.4. Angry. He's having a bad day, he'll be fine tomorrow.
    0.6. Furious. Avoid when possible. Do not step in his way.
    0.8. Very furious. Considered dangerous. Contact law enforcement immediately.
    1.0. Berserker. Expect exploding forehead veins and mayor damage to company's furniture.

  • Redmond Swine! (Score:2, Informative)

    by curmudgeon99 (1040054)
    Another example of the evil empire at work. How can these guys sleep at night? Can you imagine a worse kind of privacy invasion? Bill Gates can give all his money away to charity but he's still going to hell.
  • The system could also automatically detect frustration or stress in the user and offer and provide assistance accordingly.
    Huh? How much more should we suffer Clippy?

    Clippy: Hi, I see that you are stressed out. Should I order beer and pizza? Or should I order you a hooker?
  • by giminy (94188) on Wednesday January 16, 2008 @03:19PM (#22070142) Homepage Journal
    I don't think an employer really wants this. It may open them to an interesting liability avenue.

    Imaginary scenario:

    John Smith is sitting at his desk, typing away at the report for tomorrow's deadline. His blood pressure and heart rate spike momentarily, then calm down. His left arm becomes slightly numb, but he thinks nothing of this. About 20 minutes later, he drops dead.

    His family turns and sues Megacorp. Megacorp had access to his vital statistics, and should have noticed the warning signs that he was having a heart attack. Had the company acted upon these all-too-obvious signs, it would have saved John's life. The courts rule with Ms. Smith, and award damages of US$40M. Megacorp goes bankrupt.

    Reid.out

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