Microsoft is facing criticism for its new “Productivity Score” technology, which can measure how much individual workers use email, chat and other digital tools. But it turns out the company has even bigger ideas for using technology to monitor workers in the interest of maximizing organizational productivity.
Newly surfaced Microsoft patent filings describe a system for deriving and predicting “overall quality scores” for meetings using data such as body language, facial expressions, room temperature, time of day, and number of people in the meeting. The system uses cameras, sensors, and software tools to determine, for example, “how much a participant contributes to a meeting vs performing other tasks (e.g., texting, checking email, browsing the Internet).”
The “meeting insight computing system” would then predict the likelihood that a group will hold a high-quality meeting. It would flag potential challenges when an organizer is setting the meeting up, and recommend alternative venues, times, or people to include in the meeting, for example.
There’s not a lot of mystery here: Never convene an important meeting Friday after lunch. You don’t need a lot of software to learn that, and every manager already knows it. But the thing to consider here is the new invasion of privacy aspect: you’re not just being monitored, you’re being scored.
Everyone has been in a meeting that could have been handled by email. It’s a virtual guarantee that workers will multi-task or otherwise become anxious and want to get back to their deadlines. Now imagine being punished for going to a pointless meeting?
And trust me on this: if you have a malignant manager, that info will be used against you.