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Microsoft patent takes concept of spyware to new heights

Microsoft has submitted a patent application for a "unique monitoring system" that promises to take the concept of spyware to a brand new level. The patent describes a computer system linking workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism.

Microsoft has submitted a patent application for a "unique monitoring system" that promises to take the concept of spyware to a brand new level. The patent describes a computer system linking workers to their computers via wireless sensors.

Except from The Times:

The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance... wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”

The concern is that employers dismiss their staff on the basis of a computer's assessment of a physiological state.

Interestingly, the system could also detect frustration or stress by monitoring heart rate or facial expressions. Matched against an individual psychological profile, the system can identify employees who need help and inform management accordingly.

The way this system intrudes into every single aspect of the employee raises very serious privacy questions.

Do you think such draconian monitoring systems will ever be accepted in the workplace? How does your office monitor the performance of staff?

About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

17 comments
roynestle
roynestle

If I allowed myself to use foul language, I'd be doing right now. It wasn't bad enough that Microsoft created the evil Vista OS with its high (un)usability, but they are now trying to get their frustrated user fired for the stress caused by Vista. I guess that's one way to keep power hungry bosses happy, make them think they are getting rid of the bad apples so Microsoft can keep the bosses buying their highly flawed programs. (Gosh darn Microsoft.)

htmapes
htmapes

Machines, up until the end of last century, augmented humans making them stronger, faster, more precise, etc. We are getting closer to a time when humans will augment machines, providing sensory input and context that the machines cannot. Microsoft's patent is a rcognition that interfaces and software will have to integrate wetware into the system to maximize the productivity of the machines. Get used to it. The trend is only going to accelerate. JM

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

The Apache and Comanche weapons systems (they're not really just choppers even) are already reversed in that way. The pilot is a symbiotic unit in place purely as a central processor to join all the rest of the systems together with intelligent decision making.

Your Mom 2.0
Your Mom 2.0

As of now, the US still has a tiny iota of freedom left, so it looks like MS' new patent won't sell in the States just yet. But that doesn't mean that they can't sell it to other oppressive countries like China. I seriously doubt that MS would have a problem with doing that if there's money to be made.

Lizzie_B
Lizzie_B

What next? Remote bladder scanning in place of urine testing for drugs? Will they remotely monitor males in the workplace for erections? Check women for the state of their menstrual cycle? I can just see it: "I'm sorry, Ms. Foster, but the Systemic Health Information Telemetry system has concluded you're pregnant. We'll have to let you go..." What frightens me is that there are people out there who don't see a problem with this kind of intrusion.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

"By monitoring your stress level, they can automatically have a supervisor step in on a dicey customer service call, they transfer you to a different dept. if they see signs of stress associated with your current job role/co-workers/supervisor. It is really, truly for your good, and for the good of society. Now please relax, breath in the G-23 paxilon hydrochlorate, and lay still while the nice young man with the blue gloves inserts this lovely probe..."

Phil Haney
Phil Haney

Two by two, hands of blue... Two by Two, hands of blue... Great Joss Whedon meets 1984. I love Big Brother, now bring on the rats! -Phil "Quini, quidi, quici" - I came, I saw, I played a little quidditch.

eward
eward

NASA has been doing this for years. They take the health of their astronauts very seriously and, at least a few times a day monitor thier blood pressure, heart rate body temp etc. from houston. I just hope Microsoft isn't going to start suing them. PS- They get permission from the astronauts first :-P

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

---when I hear those high heels clicking down the hallway---

gradkiss
gradkiss

The wireless allows electromagnetic radiation suitable to saturate the hearing environment enough to hear employees think, and out loud, by matching frequencies in the ear...a constant tone (Tinnitus) is the medium for transport of the subject's brain waves heard inside the sacculous tubulars,etc. Not the first time Microsoft has gone blind to normal procedures of protocol or rules called human rights.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I'm curious.. have you further info on that? Is that like the sensor skullcaps that they are researching to control the machine without keyboard or mouse or are you meaning as in "read your thoughts and hear audio output of what your thinking from across the room"?

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

Everyone in the room is going to know what you plan to do with her, the duct-tape, 2 staplers, a half-dozen paper-clips, and 4 pounds of crumbled bacon...

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

and a new fandangled way for red blooded girrl lovin' blokes to get slapped with a sexual harrassment charges!!

cmiller5400
cmiller5400

They do not have a right to monitor my physiological state. If I have high blood pressure or a heart condition (such as tachycardia or bradycardia), there is no need for my employer to know this. I do my job well and get it done. Maybe my boss said something that gets me mad and I keep my cool on the phone, but he is monitoring my stats remotely, he then could tell what my actual response is; that he ticked me off.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Now, in the US, they would have to get employees permission to monitor their health. Especially if they have known health issues. I see this more of use for Executives (high pressure, prone to heart attacks) and person at health risk. They could wear a monitor the sends info back to the computer for anaysis. This is very close to what is happening now. Microsoft may just be trying to capture a market before it happens. This could just be a money scheme to get the health industry to pay license fees.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I said it when the FBI database story come out and I'll say it again: " Welcome to two thousand and 1984. Please step forward and place your finger over the seringe and sensore then continue on to the next checkpoint in a calm and orderly fashion. This is for your own protection. " I could see this for monitoring athletes but that does not seem to be how it's being sold and they would not need monitoring while at a computer.