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Microsoft Patents Spying on Employees

Well, it is not really a spy patent, and I know no one would ever conceive of using Microsoft’s new invention for such a thing. I am just saying some boss, somewhere, might be inclined to use this obviously pro-employee system of monitoring their bodily functions for evil, rather than for good. According to the patent application:

When a parameter is violated or a threshold is satisfied or exceeded, the system can automatically initiate the help request in order to identify the target activity and target user and determine the type or source of assistance most suitable for Joe and his activity. Parameters or thresholds can relate to the particular activity, to the user’s physical state, or to the user’s environment. For example, sensors can monitor the user’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, movement, facial movements, facial expressions, etc. Alternatively, Joe can expressly request assistance.

See. It says right in the patent application “help request.” It does not say that the email Joe receives because his blood pressure is too high asks him to clear out his desk. It does not even suggest such a consequence. Just because it can be used to automatically fire employees based upon their bodily functions, is no reason to think that it will be used to fire them.

All of those civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers up in arms about the threat this patent application poses are probably overacting. In the remote case that they are correct, however, and, to your chagrin, this patent pending system comes to company near you, I might suggest you simply grin and bear it. Otherwise, its facial recognition feature just might determine you are not a team player.

Oh, and you might want to cut back on the bran.

Brett Trout

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