Microsoft is developing software that is capable of remotely monitoring an employee’s physical wellbeing, competence and productivity, reports The Times this morning.
According to the newspaper’s front page story, the controversial system would link workers to their computers using wireless sensors, and can read 'heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, facial movements and blood pressure.'
The system will also detect stress in the employee and can even ‘provide assistance’ by informing management, which could cut down in office-based stress. This technology has been used for monitoring pilots, fire fighters and Nasa astronauts in the past, yet this is the first time it has been proposed for use in a mainstream workplace.
Critics have quickly emerged to condemn the technology, Hugh Tomlinson, QC, a data protection law expert at Matrix Chambers, told The Times that “this system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues.”
Microsoft refused to comment on the application, however, the company has stated that patents are often modified during the approval process.
Source: The Times
Meanwhile, European regulators have launched a case against Microsoft on whether it should be allowed to bundle software such as its Office suite – which includes Word, Exel and Outlook – into new computers, making the company an integral part of every computer, thereby giving it an unfair advantage over competitors. "The European authorities feel they have the court on their side now on these issues," said Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University.