Workplace surveillance technology is going to get even creepier


Last spring I wrote about a Microsoft demo at its Build developer conference that showed how cloud-connected video cameras in the workplace can be used in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI) to not only monitor activity, but to identify employees as well as any unauthorized personnel at a job site.

Now, the demonstration featured a construction site, where safety is a primary concern. But as Gizmodo Reviews Editor Alex Cranz (who attended the demo) pointed out, this video surveillance technology can be used at any workplace — including your friendly little office!

Quite unsettling, if you ask me. Could anything be creepier than working in a place where you’re being spied on all the time by video cameras?

Yes, in fact! Four months later I wrote about how AI can be used to interpret employee actions (such as web browsing) to discern “intent,” and to conduct sentiment analysis on employee communications for signs of dissatisfaction, depression, or other counter-productive states of mind. They want to get into your heads, people!

If you think that’s bad, though, get a load of this: More than 50 employees of a Wisconsin technology company volunteered last summer to have a microchip implanted in their hands.

Three Square Market, a vendor of break room technology, became the first company in the U.S. to offer implanted chip technology to all employees. In a blog post, the company explains:

Employees will have the option to voluntarily implant a RFID micro chip between the thumb and forefinger underneath the skin. RFID technology or Radio-Frequency Identification uses electromagnetic fields to identify electronically stored information. The RFID chip will allow employees to make purchases in the company’s break room market, open doors, login to computers, use copy machines, among other things.

While Three Square Market assures workers that the implanted “chip is not trackable and only contains information you choose to associate with it,” it doesn’t take a wild leap of imagination to foresee a day when some employers — in high-security industries or government jobs, say — make agreeing to a chip implant a condition of employment. Further, those chips could be trackable and collect information you don’t even know about.

Don’t say it can’t happen. And if it does, it’ll be clear that current fears about losing our jobs to robots will pale in comparison to the prospect of being turned into one.


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