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Microsoft applies for a new patent that detects employee productivity

This… isn’t great.

Microsoft logo on blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Microsoft submitted a patent application for a software called “Productivity Score” that will allow employers to monitor their employees, determine their productivity, and based on that, give each of their employees a specific score. 

This new software will monitor body language and facial expressions during online and in-face meetings. To that end, the software will use some sort of a monitoring device such as an infrared camera or a visible light camera. In addition to body language and facial expression, the software will also analyze speech patterns to determine engagement and participation.

The final feature of the new software will be monitoring employees and their habits while at work. For example, the software will track how much time an employee spends browsing the web, checking emails, texting, etc. 

J.S. Nelson, a professor at Villanova University, whose studies are closely related to workplace surveillance, described the new software as “horrendous.” He questioned the motives behind this approach and how it will affect the relationship between the employer and its employees. He also asked, “what message are you sending?” 

Jared Spataro, VP for Microsoft 365, as expected, had the opposite reaction saying that Productivity Score doesn’t present an invasion of privacy and instead it is a tool that helps employees discover new ways of working. 

Melissa Grant, a product marketing director at Microsoft 365, told Forbes that the Productivity Score software’s data is collected through a month and doesn’t reveal the programs used by individual employees.  

Even though employers and managers will have access to employee data, individual employees won’t be assigned Productivity Scores. Instead, there will be a metric known as the company-wide score.  

Grant also said that the aggregated data would be of great help to managers and employers when determining how their employees use Microsoft applications and whether they have some issues in their implementation. 

Many believe that Productivity Score is Microsoft’s way of entering the worker tracking industry, projected to reach $3.84 billion in value by 2023. Companies such as Interguard, Hubstaff, and ActivTrak are all part of this rapidly growing industry. These companies use tools that take screenshots of worker computers and measure how long they use specific programs. Companies such as Teramind are even more invasive, allowing employees to have a complete, real-time view of their employee’s screens.

What do you think? How do you feel about this patent and the idea of a Productivity Score? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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