Microsoft develops new system that can tell when employees are bored 

It’s supposed to help bosses make sure work meetings are productive.

But a new computer system that can tell when employees are bored has been condemned as an alarming form of ‘workplace surveillance’.

Microsoft has filed a patent for a network designed to monitor and score body language, speech and facial expressions at meetings via cameras, sensors and software.

But a new computer system that can tell when employees are bored has been condemned as an alarming form of 'workplace surveillance' (stock image)

But a new computer system that can tell when employees are bored has been condemned as an alarming form of 'workplace surveillance' (stock image)

But a new computer system that can tell when employees are bored has been condemned as an alarming form of ‘workplace surveillance’ (stock image)

The ‘insight computing system’ will analyse how often each participant speaks and their speech patterns, picking up on signs indicating a drop in productivity such as boredom and tiredness.

Their scores can then be cross-referenced with time spent texting, checking email and browsing the internet, using the software giant’s Office 365 software, the patent says.

All of the information gathered by the system would be combined into an ‘overall quality score’ for meetings. 

As well as in-person meetings, it could be used to monitor those held online.

Data researcher Wolfie Christl said: ‘This normalises extensive workplace surveillance in a way not seen before. 

‘This is so problematic at many levels… not least, Microsoft gets the power to define highly arbitrary metrics that will potentially affect the daily lives of millions of employees and even shape how organisations function.’

Silkie Carlo, director of the campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the system was ‘invasive’ and a ‘major step back for workers’ rights’.

Microsoft has filed a patent for a network designed to monitor and score body language, speech and facial expressions at meetings via cameras (stock image)

Microsoft has filed a patent for a network designed to monitor and score body language, speech and facial expressions at meetings via cameras (stock image)

Microsoft has filed a patent for a network designed to monitor and score body language, speech and facial expressions at meetings via cameras (stock image) 

She added: ‘This type of employee surveillance software obstructs diversity in workplaces by operating on the false premise that there is a uniform way that people work optimally.’

But Jared Spataro, of Microsoft, said the firm was ‘committed to privacy’ and the system was ‘not a work-monitoring tool’. 

The patent filing said the data it gleaned could help firms to avoid scheduling ‘non-optimal meetings’.

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