These companies are spying on their employees with AI: the worst idea ever


What if companies used technology to identify whether their employees are angry, stressed, or relaxed? This concept, called artificial emotional intelligence (EAI), has been around for a number of years and has emerged in the world of work. These tools are mainly used in the recruitment of candidates, but also to monitor employees in the fulfillment of their mission.

In a fascinating article, Business Insider was interested in these strategies. Our colleague mentions in particular the case of the customer service employees of one company. They get real-time feedback from AI that suggests the right tone to adopt towards their partner. However, the researchers were able to observe that these workers were upset by these negative comments. They also worried that the tool would eventually get them into trouble if it didn’t provide enough positive feedback.

Tracking is counterproductive

Another example provided by an information site: a company that makes high-end desktops for big companies like Nvidia and LinkedIn. Their chairs are equipped with biosensors that can measure people’s heart rate, heart rate variability, breathing rate and nervousness. This tool is designed to measure well-being and data is collected anonymously to provide a general diagnosis.

Some do not believe this version, like Sarah Myers West, executive director of the AI ​​​​Now Institute. Quoted by user Business Insiderexplains: “If you’re working with biometrics and emotion recognition, you’re dealing with data that is inherently identifiable. So many data streams are being collected that the anonymization argument doesn’t hold up.”

Note that EAI, which seems to be a market with a bright future, is sometimes questionable in its effectiveness. This technology is actually based on the work of American psychologist Paul Ekman. According to him, human emotions are revealed by universal facial expressions. But this research has recently been refuted by several studies, so there is no consensus.

Regardless, and more generally, surveillance devices at work are a terrible idea. According to a study led by David Welsh, a professor at Arizona State University, police tend to encourage employees to break the rules. The researchers even noted unauthorized breaks, deliberately slower work or even more frequent theft of equipment among the most controlled workers.

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