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Enterprise Software

Microsoft to develop office spy software?

Remember when I talked about how your health issues could possibly get you fired? How about when I talked about how you shouldn't disclose any information about health problems in job interviews because it would sway opinion against you? Those blogs brought about a lot of discussion among TechRepublic members about the constitutionality of weighing health factors in an employee's work appraisal.

Well, hold on to your cough drops, because Microsoft has filed a patent application for a computer system that is capable of "remotely monitoring a worker's productivity, physical wellbeing and competence."

An article in the TimesOnline describes the proposed computer system as one 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.

If any alarming spikes become evident, the system would then let that person's manager know.

[I just had a mental picture of my cubicle erupting in loud sirens about 17 times a day, engulfed in a flashing blue light, while an oxygen mask drops down from a ceiling tile.]

OK, so my first question is Why? What's the purpose? I can understand the technology being needed for astronauts or test pilots or others whose physical composure is critical to their jobs. But for the regular Joe? Is it just a Tech Wizard for the manager who doesn't feel like doing another part of his job?

My second question is Then what happens? So let's say, one day I have a blood pressure spike, my respiration rate skyrockets, and the readout from my nerve conduction looks like the NYC skyline. Is a group of people going to come out and throw me in a plastic bubble? Will I get fired? Will my personnel folder reflect a series of conniption fits?

Of course, civil liberties groups are all over this idea, citing serious violations of privacy. If people have problems with random drug testing can you imagine what furor this will cause?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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