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back to article Microsoft seeks patent on employee spy system

Microsoft has filed a patent for a system that monitors the behavior of employees via computers, phone calls, and physical gestures, and alerts human resources if anyone is behaving outside of preferred norms. The patent describes how an increase in an employee’s trust in the boss is the equivalent to a pay rise, so to promote …

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Pint

(hand gesture)

Anything else you want to know ?

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Go

agree!!

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Go

All your souls are belong to us

I, for one, welcome our new Oceania Thought Police overlords.

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FAIL

Oh... My... Fucking... God...

The post is required, and must contain letters.

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Anonymous Coward

Question...

"Microsoft seeks patent on employee spy system"

When they develop it, will it crash all the time, making the employees freeze (or give a blue face of death) until someone reboots them?

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"Hello. I looks like you are itching to punch your manager's smug face. Do you want help with that?"

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Facepalm

Trust improvement ?????

They want to monitor your every action so as to improve trust? Youse would not read about it.

By the way, you omitted from the list of actions to be monitored and reported on "Looking at me in a funny way".

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Big Brother

@improve trust

Any boss who used this system (or even thought it up) would be proving beyond any remaining doubt that they are indeed really that distrustful of other people, including their own employees. It would provide absolute final proof on a scale no one could use lies to cover up.

The thing is, I wouldn't want to work for any boss like this and I hope everyone would feel the same way. In which case, the distrustful bosses would find it hard to get and keep employees and so their businesses would suffer as a result. (It would also destroy all staff moral of anyone who tried to stay with that kind of boss, so it wouldn't work). It would mean these bosses would be putting themselves and their businesses at a competitive disadvantage in the market place. Which is good news, because it would result in some of their businesses failing, which would push more money in the direction of good companies that considered employee moral and treated employees like human beings.

Its a good thing for society that the bad bosses finally highlight themselves as embittered, embattled, endlessly scheming, self-interested Narcissists as a warning to everyone to stay away from them. Let their businesses fail and then maybe, finally, they will seek some help they badly need, for their Narcissistic Personality Disorders. Which would leave the rest of us to build better lives for our families, without suffering the abuses of these bosses endlessly increasing control freak tyranny.

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Anonymous Coward

I know a few organisations that do that already

There is lots of prior art here.

In any case, regarding the el-reg punchline about punching the boss. You may game a computer system, you cannot game an organisation's system to find a reason to abuse employees and pay them less. So in real life you will suddenly find that you did not have enough brownie points to punch the boss in the face (or harrass him and make him look like an idiot at all hands).

Been there, done that in an organisation which has similar system of assessment (just not automated) and is _PROUD_ of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Expect a visit from the BOFH

"I think it's time we took a good hard look at this new HR system"

"Isn't that a fire axe?"

"Look, I can use it on you, or I can use it on the system. Your choice."

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1984 here we come :(

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You've not heard of Google?

Nuff said.

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Anonymous Coward

I have few such reservations.

Who controls the hardware this is running on? Who installs it, configures and maintains it?

Completely stupid idea in general though. If ever implemented, I suspect it will be about as effective as stats logging on the telephone system is. Which I might note, is not very. That just measures the speed of response and doesn't measure the quality of response.

Effective line management is far cheaper, and can also address issues with junior staff engaging in appropriate behaviour through a range of effective remedies starting with the good old fashioned managers glare, and progressing through polite chats to formal disciplinary meetings actually addressing the problems. Meanwhile, this fancy gadget can presumably only log a performance alert with HR.

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Trollface

RE: "Effective line management is far cheaper"

Hmm, yes we do appear to have a difficult choice here.

1. An Orwellian high-tech approach that stands every chance of creating far more problems than it solves.

2. Succeeding in getting line managers to do their jobs in a consistent and constructive fashion.

Hmm.....that's a toughie, approach #1 is nightmare city, whilst at the same time #2 does seem raaather ambitious.

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Anonymous Coward

Prior Art

Sorry ATT(SBC) has already patent being a bastard boss from hel lor BBFH

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Funny you should say that.

Once upon a time, I worked on a contract at AT&T. For legitimate reasons, someone there put certain tracking software on certain workstations and confirmed a suspicion about someone getting into financial systems where they didn't belong. Using someone else's workstation.

That this involved a contracting company associated with the Enron fiasco will surprise no one who ever dealt with them or their IT consulting spinoff, may they rot in bureaucratic hell.

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THEY CAN'T PATEN THE 2- FINGER GESTURE- IT IS PRIOT ART

WILL A 2 FINGER GESTURE CRASH THE MONITORSYSTEM

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PURE BS PATENT if approved

Much of this is already DOABLE:

Ip phones (vice analog phones)

browers logs (how much of your off-break time is on work-related surfing)

firewall logs (going to naughty places or attracting nuisances?)

access card readers (work start/finish times)

premises cams (are you allowing tailgaters/are you speeding through the parking lot?)

And so on.

The bit about recordign hand gestures/body language is over the top. WAY too invasive and subjective.

How the frack would this system rate Stephen Hawking?

Slurs, drools, nods, grimmaces, and doesn't have a natural-sounding voice. Gets around too slowly and is a drain on escort duties of limited staff. Needs help getting out of own chair and unable to feed nor discharge self of fresh and procesed foods.

What a asinine sytstem for which an asinine patent may be issued.

It's one thing to produce such systems from scratch or buy them. It's a nasty, stupid ball of wax to allow a patent on something that is obvious and doable in ANY office that wants to go this far. If it is a DEFENSIVE patent, so that NOBODY (even msoft) can obstruct ANYONE implementing such a system, fine. But, if it is a gate-keeping attempt by ms to dole out licenses and obstruct others, hell no. I've been making a database-based performance system for personal use (self-study and to have some skills to demonstrate; it captures all sorts of persona and work-related infor for personnel and compares them to their peers and non-peers in an organization, ties in to work assignments, etc.) and toiled over it since ~ 1994-ish. No damned patent is going to stop me from sharing or selling my schema, interface, back end tables, paper reports, and so on.

Come to think of it, any decent HR database is maybe 80% of they way there. Different tools and backend code allow for numerous combinations of design and presentation and implementation and robustness.

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WTF?

So, Let Me Make Sure I Understand Your Position.

You have your panties in a twist because Microsoft might use their patent to block other sociopathic coporations from developing a monitoring system that would make George Orwell blush?

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@Goat Jam

Maybe he has his panties in a twist because Microsoft are using their patent to develop a monitoring system that would make George Orwell blush to SELL to other sociopathic corporations.

The mere fact that they're in the process of inventing such an evil system is enough. Once it exists, they'll sell it to other corporations until everyone is forced to work in this hideous Orwellian nightmare.

Or maybe it's just a reflex response: Patents = Bad and Must Be Opposed!

I'll add that my trust is not given without the person seeking it damn well EARNING it. If any company I work for wants me to trust them then they'll give me a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, without quibbling about it, and without endlessly trying to get as much as they can while giving as little as possible. There's no way I'll EVER trust any employer who tries to force my trust while treating me like a slave, no matter what technology they try to bring to bear on it.

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Anonymous Coward

I bet Capita are already on the phone asking when they can buy the system.

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Emj

[Quote]I bet Capita are already on the phone asking when they can buy the system.[/quote]

True, then they will do what only Crapita can do the best, fuck it up, charge the customer for said fuck up and finally it will all end up with the poor customer wanting to hang the project manager but can't because the little shit has buggered off to cock up another project... and the cycle starts again.

Oh, the MS patent idea sounds crap.

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"an increase in an employee’s trust in the boss is the equivalent to a pay rise"

Don't think so.

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Devil

Why do I feel that will be used to slash pay? 'We have determined that subjecting you to constant observation and judgement of all facial tics is a form of compensation to you. As such, we are reducing your take-home pay by half, since being our personal meat-Muppet is pay-raise, and you have done nothing to warrant such a raise. Remember: not orgasming at this news shows up as anti-social behavior on the monitors, so act accordingly; of course orgasming at the news is a benefit to you, so we will have to dock you for that too.

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A title is optional

I wonder how this system would rank "throwing a chair when learning that an underling has defected to Google"?

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As with all bonus/pay related metrics

Anything that would get a peon sacked is seen as proactive and profit enhancing when don by upper Management.

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Anonymous Coward

Hacking

Such a system would make a good target for some hacking...

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Pint

But tell me how you really feel

Seeing something like this makes me think there'll be a patent application sooner or later for analysis, as in Freudian analysis, Jungian analysis, transactional analysis... As long as there's a computer recording/interpreting the sessions, why not? It's just an extrapolation of things like this...

Actually, total workplace monitoring would have been useful to me more than once. One time the 'system' could have called the medics automatically when I'd gone catatonic after too many months of overwork as a one-body 'team'. Another time, the 'system' could have _reminded_ the boss that I'd been pulling 16 hour days for a few months prior to the merely 'satisfactory' rating on review. "?!?!? What company-saving project? Oh, xyzzy ... Um, yeah..., umm..."

On any chart with multiple measures I'd'a been offscale in *both* directions on certain days!

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Big Brother

Wait until this is picked up by the <insert country here> government

Wall-to-wall Kinect everywhere. Analysis of all behavior of entire population. Eschelon retired and replaced by M$ system.

Makes 1984 look like a utopia.

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Anonymous Coward

Already has been.

Lots of prior art here.

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Coffee/keyboard

let em try to implement it... never fear...

BOFH is here.

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FAIL

bend over

now we can take care of your review

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....it'll be available on the public internet.....

Well if certain companies haven't yet learnt that SCADA and IP Cameras are not meant to be accessible on the public internet - I can only assume many many companies would suddenly end up with their orwelian database / computer system accessible to the public internet too.

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Gold badge

Re: available on the public internet

You mean, like an *interactive* version of Big Brother?

Sounds fun, but I think Endemol might want royalties.

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WTF?

What are they afraid of?

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Big Brother

Theory vs Reality

The theory:

"“increased efficiency, increased participation, awareness of cultural practices, increased empowerment and engagement of employees, career growth, and trust improvement.”

The reality:

"Dear Sir/Madam,

You are recieving this Automated HR Friendly Production Increasing Email because your hand gestures whilst communicating to female staff member No. 3245-K exceeded the predetermined levels deemed necessary for communication. In addition, productivity has decreased 1.3%, possibly due to the massive weekend you were telling your friends about near the watercooler at lunch time. The company will be re-evaluating the necessity to maintain your employment going forward, in order to protect staff members who ARE performing - such as number 34345-L; who has increased his productivity 3.4% despite having slightly elevated sodium levels today and a susceptibility to a rare genetic disorder that we'll be telling him about before he goes home today.

Thank you for your co-operation.

Please note, all employees with genetic disorders will have employment re-evaluated.

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Windows

Looks Like We Dodged a Bullet There

Thank God nobody competent patented this, otherwise I'd be getting a bit worried right now.

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Plus, with MS, the high-end version of the software will throw chairs at the slackers.

Well, the rank and file slackers, of course. Not the management slackers; they'll get promotions.

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Happy

Ah

"an increase in an employee’s trust in the boss is the equivalent to a pay rise"

Oh, well, if it's all the same, I'll take the pay rise thankyouverymuch

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Anonymous Coward

Looking to sweet retirement

I'll send the HR department a box of cat turds as my going away gift.

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Speaking as an employer ...

I want absolutely nothing to do with this thing.

Hire good people, pay 'em at least 50% more than the competition would[1], give 'em more perks than the competition, and don't micromanage them. Just let 'em get on with it. That's why you're paying top-dollar, right?

All this kind of micromanagement will do is create a paranoid workforce, and completely destroy anything resembling morale and productivity.

Microsoft's marketing department obviously has no clue about keeping employees gruntled. Remind me again why it's good for Marketing to run an Engineering company?

[1] My four "permanent" fieldhands get around 6 times more $/hr than they would elsewhere, have free room & board, TV, Internet and all utilities are payed, the only bills they have are for their personal phones and vehicles. Likewise the foreman & his assistant (his wife), who get about double what they would make elsewhere. All are fully insured to boot (including a variation of "renters insurance"). The day workers have similar benefits. We have an all-hands planning meeting twice a week (Tuesday & Friday, over lunch), and I never need to tell anybody what to do the rest of the week. Day folks come & go with the seasons (we do re-hire good folks when we have work, so the faces are fairly consistent), but the "live ins" have all been with me for over a decade.

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"All this kind of micromanagement will do is create a paranoid workforce, and completely destroy anything resembling morale and productivity."

Exactly! Management with so little trust in their employees that they deploy such a system shouldn't let those employees in the door to handle sensitive corporate data or take responsibility for activities which could determine the success or failure of the organisation.

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Childcatcher

Think of the children...

...growing up in this shitty world where a corporation simply owns your ass.

People who dream up ideas like this are sociopaths.

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If only Steve were still around

I'd love to hear his rant about this.

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Thumb Up

Re: Think of the children

Which is exactly why I don't have any.

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Coat

"growing up in this shitty world where a corporation simply owns your ass."

Absolutely! Afterall, @ss-owning is the government's job.

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Alert

Pass me the splurge gun...

Most of the truly creative people I have ever the pleasure to work with, had some sort of personality trait that would send this software off the end of the scale.

What would such a system would make of rainbow hairstyles, inflatable alligators, BOFH mugs, chair races and design documents written in the style of Tolkien? That's before we get to the bare feet and a disinclination to wash.

Alternatively you could have a neat, silent office full of tidy, emotionless clones, gently coasting to oblivion, as they wait for the next startling revelation from their know-nothing managers.

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Anonymous Coward

Soooo, if this thing measure deviations from a learned baseline then it's in everyone's interest to ensure the baseline is set correctly.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 11:48

"Soooo, if this thing measure deviations from a learned baseline then it's in everyone's interest to ensure the baseline is set correctly"

Doing that as we speak. Third coffee in a row, gesturing wildly, and only returning to the computer to post on El Reg and check my twitter updates. Still waiting for another guy here to accept the office chair race challenge...

I'm a bit undecided whether the fastest should win, or if the number and difficulty of stunts should be included in the overall score. But I *trust* my line manager to make the right call on that one.

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Facepalm

Prior art?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064177/

All hail our new metal overlords!

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