Tech

Microsoft Patents New Technology To Detect Employee Productivity

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Microsoft is patenting a new software that would allow employers to monitor staff’s productivity.

The new software gives managers access to companywide activity and will allow employers to monitor their staff’s productivity by giving each employee a numeric score based off facial expressions and body language, according to patent records from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Using a “quality monitoring device” such as a visible light camera or infrared camera, the company can record employees, both virtually and in-person, to determine whether – and how much– they are contributing to a meeting.

The software will be able to detect speech patterns “consistent with boredom” and “fatigue” to keep track of participation and engagement. It will also be able to track information regarding how much time an employee takes to text, check their emails and browse the web.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 03: Production staff on the weekly fashion magazine, Grazia edit the magazine in a temporary office inside the Westfield shopping centre on November 3, 2008 in London. For one week Grazia magazine is being produced in the Westfield shopping centre and are offering shoppers free make-overs, fashion consultations and advice on pursuing a modeling career. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

LONDON – NOVEMBER 03: Production staff on the weekly fashion magazine, Grazia edit the magazine in a temporary office inside the Westfield shopping centre on November 3, 2008 in London. For one week Grazia magazine is being produced in the Westfield shopping centre and are offering shoppers free make-overs, fashion consultations and advice on pursuing a modeling career. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, said in an October blog post the productivity score is needed to help employees “build the habits that harness the true power of those tools.” However, Spataro said the productivity score will not be an invasion of privacy.

“We get it, and we are committed to privacy as a fundamental element of Productivity Score Let me be clear: Productivity Score is not a work monitoring tool,” he wrote. “Productivity Score is about discovering new ways of working, providing your people with great collaboration and technology experiences.”

Microsoft 365 Product Marketing Director Melissa Grant told Forbes that the Productivity Score aggregates user-data over a month so employers can’t pinpoint exactly what programs an employee was or wasn’t using and when it occurred.

“Having the numbers on something doesn’t mean you have any idea what’s going on with your employees,” Grant told Forbes, noting employees could just open up a bunch of documents or find ways to inflate their scores.

However, the new technology has sparked some backlash for those concerned it could constitute an invasion of privacy. (RELATED: Google Spied On, Fired, Coerced Employees For Unionization Attempt, National Labor Relations Board Alleges)

“It’s horrendous,” J.S. Nelson, an associate professor of law at Villanova University who studies workplace surveillance said, according to Forbes. “Why are they monitoring people this way and what is that telling people about the relationship they should have with their employers in the workplace? What message are you sending?”