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Australian Tax Office Seeks Keylogger To Combat RSI 138

Posted by timothy
from the hot-key-for-naughty dept.
schliz writes "The Australian Tax Office plans to track employees' keystrokes and mouse clicks in attempts to address the growing incidence of repetitive strain injuries (RSI) among staff. It hopes to purchase commercial, off-the-shelf 'pause or exercise break software' that delivers safety messages to users, while determining 'more information about the nature of computing use in the workplace.'"
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Australian Tax Office Seeks Keylogger To Combat RSI

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  • by Billlagr (931034) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:02AM (#36069108)
    Umm...no. Nothing to see here, move along. From TFA -

    use of the proposed software would be voluntary and intended only to count keystrokes and mouse clicks rather than the content of the work being completed

    • by Fluffeh (1273756)

      But the most important thing about RSI is the WAY you make those keystrokes and mouse clicks. It's not how many of them you do, it is how your hands/wrists are kept when making them.

      Wrists off table is BAD. It's that simple.

      • by Billlagr (931034)
        I agree. Which makes counting clicks somewhat..useless, unless it is used as part of an overall strategy, and not just counting for the sake of it. The ATO could of course just be looking at new and creative ways of spending the revenue they gouge out of us.
      • by Cato (8296)

        > Wrists off table is BAD. It's that simple.

        Absolute rubbish. Typical ergonomic advice is to keep your wrists at a natural angle, whereas keeping your wrists on the table forces the hand to be bent somewhat backward. Something like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/onekell/2570138754/ [flickr.com]

        There's debate about whether wrist pads that support the wrist are a good or a bad thing.

        To get some accurate information, see this FAQ: http://www.rsiprevention.com/rsi_faq.php [rsiprevention.com]

        It's not just posture in any case - total ho

        • I've come to the conclusion that a fair portion of the crap sold as "ergonomic" is a scam.

          Last big company I worked for was big into it and some of the equipment was good but some shyster salesman got them to buy a large quantity of very expensive "ergonomic" keyboards for when people are in meetings with their laptops.

          They were laptop keyboards, same layout, same shape.
          People would have been better off unplugging their full sized keyboards from their desks and bringing them with them.

          I was also sorely(litt

          • So by a fair portion, you mean two things?

            • yes, you've got me.
              I've never done a randomised controlled trial of ergonomic equipment, nor have I compiled extensive stats.

              All I can go on is the handful of items I've encountered sold specifically as "ergonomic".

        • by Bengie (1121981)

          Well, I've been playing 6-14 hours of video games since ~'95, and now I program 8 hours a day then come home and play another 6 hours of games.

          The only issues I have had were related to bad posture or poorly design keyboards/mice. I can usually sense an issue starting up and fix it before it becomes bad. Either way, I have always fix any RSI style issues on my own by new input devices or fixing my posture. The biggest posture issue I've noticed is I like to lean on my left arm. The leaning means my neck is

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      I dunno, that phrase "while determining 'more information about the nature of computing use in the workplace.'" seems pretty indicative that they plan on doing some higher-level processing. Even if the actual words you type aren't logged, I bet this will eventually end up being used to detect people slacking off, web browsing or IM'ing.
      • by delinear (991444)
        Indeed, it seems a pretty clear cut "we're doing this for our good but we'll throw you a bone and some FUD about it being beneficial to you" exercise. There's nothing to stop them implementing the two things separately, they've deliberately bundled them together to add some marketing spin to their data gathering operation.
    • by mjwx (966435) on Monday May 09, 2011 @07:40AM (#36070688)

      Umm...no. Nothing to see here, move along. From TFA -

      use of the proposed software would be voluntary and intended only to count keystrokes and mouse clicks rather than the content of the work being completed

      Not surprising.

      If the ATO is already monitoring its workers to the nth degree, why would they be announcing more monitoring.

      I once did some work for the ATO, you need a background check to enter the building, police clearance to walk around unescorted, you are told up front everything you do and say is recorded, a joke can land you in court, you can be charged if you casually read something off someone's desk. You have to check in and check out with security. No photos, there are area's where you're not even permitted to carry your phone at all.

      I dont believe in the slash-conspiracy that the gubbermit is bad and evil, all this security is necessary, the ATO has the largest database of the personal details of Australians, from car purchases to monthly pay stubs and there are corporations that would kill for that kind of data, the ATO's mandate is to keep it safe.

      So I fully believe that this would be for OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety) because 1. Australian Government departments are very big on OH&S and 2. If the ATO is not already monitoring their own computers to a paranoid degree, they're doing it wrong.

    • Umm...no. Nothing to see here, move along. From TFA -

      use of the proposed software would be voluntary and intended only to count keystrokes and mouse clicks rather than the content of the work being completed

      It's not necessarily "not equal" but rather "not necessarily not equal."

      Or to be a little more memetastic: "Any sufficiently advanced keystroke counter is indistinguishable from a keylogger."

      But I don't deny that you are right that in this case they do state that it's not a true keylogger in the common (and nefarious) sense of the word. However, given the hijinx we've all seen in government, business, schools and almost any group of people of size greater than or equal to one, a little paranoia is not irra

  • by Dutchmaan (442553) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:02AM (#36069110) Homepage
    In related news, the Australian government will be placing monitoring devices inside phones to monitor decibel levels and signal quality.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:03AM (#36069112)

    Repetitive stress injury how little to do with actual clicks. It has everything to do with the way people hold their hands over the keyboards and mice.

    If you have to lift your hand from the desk or wrist rest, then you are doing it wrong. It's that simple.

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      Weirdly, when I tried to type the "right way", the way that typing teachers teach you to type (with your wrists held up in the air), I got RSI, and it hurt.

      When I do it the wrong way, with the palms/wrists resting on the wristrest, it's great, and I've not had a problem. I curve my back, scrunch up, put my feet on a footrest (or not), and it's all good.

      But when I'm hurting, there's almost nothing I can do to not make it hurt.

      I've come to the conclusion that general bodily health is the most important factor

      • by fractoid (1076465)
        I've always countered the "you should aim for perfect Victorian posture" line with "when did you ever see a monkey sit up straight?"

        I agree that keeping generally fit and typing in the manner you find most comfortable (ie. the way in which you feel least strain) is the way to go. I've only ever had RSI problems when I was (a) stressed out and not exercising, and (b) unconsciously tensing up my mousing hand. When I addressed those two factors I went back to being able to use a computer for 12+ hours a day
      • by blackest_k (761565) on Monday May 09, 2011 @02:24AM (#36069408) Homepage Journal

        But when I'm hurting, there's almost nothing I can do to not make it hurt.

        May I recommend a cod liver oil or Omega 3 capsule a day. While I can offer no scientific evidence other than it works for me. My Doctor diagnosed me with carpal tunnel and my fingers were in a terrible state (playing a guitar became impossible since i couldn't hold a chord without severe pain). I decided to take the capsules to help my over all level of health (and they were cheap enough to buy) I already was taking a bunch of other meds due to diabetes and a heart attack so one more thing to take was no big deal.

        The results were unexpected but my physical symptoms disappeared of course when i got to the end of the bottle I stopped and within 2 weeks the pain returned. I restarted and have had very little trouble since.
        I've been taking 1 a day now for around 2 years now. It seems to work for other people I know as well.

        Nothing to lose by trying it for a month and seeing if it improves things. Has anyone else any experience with cod liver oil / omega 3 giving relief or not ?

        • by Compaqt (1758360)

          Thanks for the suggestion. Hope it helps someone.

          I actually misspoke. There is one thing that relieves the pain for me: The Cat's Paw [catspaw.com].

          It's just a piece of flexible material with holes cut for your fingers. You make you fingers flex outwards, and it relieves pain in your arm/wrist.

          By giving you something to resist against, you get better relief.

          I keep one on hand just in case I develop another case of RSI.

          • I would have thought that a cat's paw [wikipedia.org] would mean you duped a lackey into doing your typing for you....

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Thanks for the suggestion. Hope it helps someone.

            I actually misspoke. There is one thing that relieves the pain for me: The Cat's Paw [catspaw.com].

            It's just a piece of flexible material with holes cut for your fingers. You make you fingers flex outwards, and it relieves pain in your arm/wrist.

            By giving you something to resist against, you get better relief.

            I keep one on hand just in case I develop another case of RSI.

            Couldn't you just use a couple of strong rubber bands?

        • by mr_stark (242856)

          Omega-3 Fatty Acids supress inflamation which is whats causing the pain in your RSI

          More info at here [jacn.org].

    • by Cato (8296)

      > If you have to lift your hand from the desk or wrist rest, then you are doing it wrong. It's that simple.

      Wrong - see my answer to this mostly duplicate comment at http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2136538&cid=36069878 [slashdot.org]

  • Is this still... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fjodor42 (181415) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:04AM (#36069118) Homepage

    ...a built in, ready to activate, feature of GNOME?

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      >...a built in, ready to activate, feature of GNOME?

      Well, it was in Gnome2: System > Preferences > Keyboard Preferences > Typing Break.

      It's not as full-featured as Workrave, and it doesn't lead you through exercises.

      I have no idea whether the so-called "new/improved" Gnome3 or Unity still have it.

  • RSIGuard (Score:4, Informative)

    by peterofoz (1038508) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:06AM (#36069128) Homepage Journal
    This one seems ok. We use it at work also. http://www.rsiguard.com/ [rsiguard.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dr_dex (49357)

      Or use the free WorkRave program for Windows. You can find it at workrave.org. I must admit that at times I find these RSI-prevention programs a bit annoying, but it is when they actually tell you to stop that you need it the most (to avoid RSI).

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:10AM (#36069144)

    A number of Australian government departments toyed with a program called 'Workpace' (made in the Netherlands I believe). I fondly recall a pop-up window telling me to exercise my fingers by employing something that looked remarkably like the shocker.

    In the end, it was just an annoyance. It doesn't take a program to tell you your staff need more frequent breaks, better equipment and better OHS reporting.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Presumably if your boss tells you to get back to work, you can point at the helpful dialogue box on the screen?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but this is the management way of sorting the problem

      Spend money, get statistics, show a markable improvement.

      The alternative might be cheaper and make more common sense but it isn't trackable and suffers from wing-creep

  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:13AM (#36069158)
    RSI for a large amount of people is little more than the modern day equivalent of a sickie. You would have better luck nailing down the root cause by monitoring pubs and and sporting events to find where the days out correspond.
    • RSI for a large amount of people is little more than the modern day equivalent of a sickie. You would have better luck nailing down the root cause by monitoring pubs and and sporting events to find where the days out correspond.

      Yes, I can see how the doctors, Workcover, workers and businesses conspire to make this happen.

      You're talking about the exception rather than the rule.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        yeah they do that, by giving baaaaaaaad advice about how to use a keyboard and a mouse.

        they should use it to find out which can touch type and which can't. if you can't, your wrists are GOING TO BE FUCKED, there's a longer explanation too. and if you can't, your neck is going to be fucked too.

        the problem is that they usually go and recommend bad products, bad tables. and real workplace experts are the worst because they never spend any extended length of time working on a keyboard themselfs.

    • I damaged my right wrist with a shopping cart once (don't ask.) Sice then, I tend to have issues with RSI in that wrist from the permanently damaged ligaments. If I use the mouse for an extended period of time, then it hurts. An NSAID like aleve and a wrist brace for a few days and it's fine. But some days it's so bad I need to switch to the left hand with my mouse.
  • Just stop playing Mafia Wars and Farmville.

  • Workrave (Score:5, Informative)

    by Compaqt (1758360) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:18AM (#36069168) Homepage

    Works great.

    It's available for Win and Lin [workrave.org].

    You can set times for mini-breaks and full breaks separately. Full breaks lead you through a configurable series of animated exercises.

    I can vouch that they really do work if you do them diligently.

    It allows you to (configurably) cancel or postpone a break, but it's geared toward locking the screen so you you're less tempted to skip breaks. You can even set a max time on the computer per day plus log work/breaks on the network.

    Click here to install [apt] in Debian/Ubuntu/Mint

    • I find it interesting that you recommended a program that does exactly what the ATO is proposing.

      From my workrave statistics:
      Date: 5/4/2011 from 9:07 AM to 6:17 PM
      Mouse usage: 36:56
      Mouse movement 366.80 m
      Effective mouse movement: 256.91 m
      Mouse button clicks: 1731
      Keystrokes: 5935

      I do not see a way in the preferences to disable statistics monitoring, either.

      • by Compaqt (1758360)

        Wow, it does that?

        I didn't even know, and I've been using it for at least 8 years. Thanks for pointing that out.

        By the way, there's a neat little program called "mousepath [google.com]" that shows a line drawing of your mouse movements.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I had signs of RSI in the past when using a mouse. After changing from right hand 'mousing' to left hand 'mousing' the problems moved with it and did not disappear. After going to trackerball all problems went away. Added bonus: you need much less free area for the trackerball compared to the use of a mouse.

  • Body Insight (Score:3, Informative)

    by jrozzi (1279772) on Monday May 09, 2011 @01:24AM (#36069202)
    There are companies who focus on these kind of things and can help individuals who work on computers with training exercises and other ways to prevent RSI, back and neck pain, knee pain, etc. I have gotten a lot of help from Body Insight [bodyinsight.com]. They also suggest the use of RSIGuard.
  • I am pretty sure no one who has a high degree of job satisfaction gets RSI. Maybe the headline should better read 'ATO a crap place to work.... staff jump on RSI bandwagon to get more time off'
    • Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski loves his work passionately and lives in pain from carpal tunnel syndrome.

    • Re:RSI or... (Score:5, Informative)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Monday May 09, 2011 @03:04AM (#36069542)

      RSI is not a bandwagon, it's not something you can use to get a day off. Quite simply because it's not an issue that appears and disappears overnight, it's a long term problem. My girlfriend really loves her job at a bakery, but after years of preparing the icing on donuts she now can't make that movement without physical pain. Other movements are fine, and she still beats me at tennis, but that specific wave of the hand that is repeated over and over again when icing a tray of donuts is completely out of the question. She is slowly recovery now. She has been banned from icing for the last 12 months and is moving onto other activities.

      I like my job too yet quite frequently I'll spend all day typing some crap long-winded report. I don't want to do that in pain down the line. But I likely won't have that problem. My office is assessed frequently by ergonomic specialists. Last time round they got me a bigger monitor for no other reason than every so often I cram too much stuff on the screen and lean forward slightly. But then I also have back problems too.

      Ergonomics is a serious issue. Treat it like one.

  • Bad things are always wrapped in colourfull nice emotion driven packages.

    So a keylogger tells you when its time to take a break. My brain does the same when it feels pain from the sensors in my hand.

    What these keyloggers will most likely be used is for staff performance. if your APM suffers you may lose your job as you are no longer in the pro league :) :)

    • by Compaqt (1758360)

      The point of RSI tools is to tell you to take a break *before* your hand starts hurting.

      I agree with the fact that some employers will use any excuse to monitor workers, but Workrave and friends is something you'd want to use even if you were working for yourself.

    • So a keylogger tells you when its time to take a break. My brain does the same when it feels pain from the sensors in my hand.

      Christ, my bladder does that. If I was a knight, I'd be Sir Pissalot.

  • I had similar software installed on my work box. Every now and then it would nag you to take a break because you were typing too much or moving the mouse too much. This software was configured so that it could not be disabled by the normal machine user, and was very annoying with its constant chiming and messages. The one funny part about it though, is that there was a small meter in the task bar that showed your usage level. If you continued to use your mouse and keyboard without a break the meter woul
  • by pbjones (315127) on Monday May 09, 2011 @02:10AM (#36069360)

    buy better keyboards and mice, instead of those cheap crappy ones.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You can get an excellent keyboard for 10 euro. And many expensive keyboards are actually bad for you.
      An ergonomic mouse doesn't need to be expensive either.
      But the real cause of RSI (or rather, several different otherwise unrelated injuries caused by bad working habits) are things like bad posture, working too fast or too forcefully, stress, long work hours, lack of micro-breaks and such. By the way, these diseases aren't at all new, scribes used to have ailments that sound suspiciously like modern-day RSI.

    • Yeah, try to justify the expense for an $80 Unicomp Customizer ("the son of Model M") versus some $5 no-brand junk. Of course, the $80 one is absurdly more comfortable and will last for decades, and the $5 will likely be unusable in a year or two, but people tend to be short-sighted, bureaucrats doubly so.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        what kind of professional won't get something that saves his life on his own? 80 bucks is nothing if you're working.

        tables now on the other hand.. harder to bring your own if the one included in the office has a shitty small keyboard platform.

    • Or better: buy something realy user-friendly instead of the pimped version of the 1960's teletype terminal. Integrate a keyboard into a monitor and point on your screen. Mount that screen slightly tilted from horizontal in front of you. This way, you actually look where you work, which gives you a way better position. Looking front, typing down and mousing sideways is just a worsening of the 1960 situation (which was never meant to be used all day long).
    • I brought in my own. Logitech MX700; One of the few mice I've found large enough to fit my hand. I rest my palm on the rear of the mouse, and click with the 3rd finger joint. I've also set my mouse to be SLLLLOOOOOWWWWW so I have to use my arm to manoeuvre across the screen, not my wrist.

      If anything, this means that my hands aren't completely ruined by the time I get home and start gaming ;)
    • I use a $20 Microsoft Comfort Curve. It is less weird for a touch typer than the true ergo keyboards, and is by leaps and bounds the best keyboard I've ever used. I love the huge space bar and tiny caps lock keys, too.
  • And it won't help... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday May 09, 2011 @02:24AM (#36069410) Homepage

    Keystroke and mouse movement information won't help. The information you need is "What hand/forearm position are the typists using?", and software can't record that.

    To quote my typing teacher, "*smack* Wrists UP!".

    NB: proper typing position has the forearms parallel to floor, back of hand flat relative to top of forearm. Raise or lose the seat to achieve this. Fingers should dangle onto the keys, if the first fingerbone is horizontal your seat is too low and needs raised slightly.

    • I actually think that "wrists up" may harken back to the days when you had to actually pound the keys on a mechanical typewriter (although I have no proof of this and it's really just conjecture). Anyway, I am most comfortable typing with my forearms resting on the edge of the desk so my wrists are "half up" (if that makes sense) but I can easily rest them if required.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        i like to type with wrists on desk, with the keyboard far enough on the desk that it's supported. so hands are most of the time totally relaxed laying on hard surface. keeping the wrists up gets painful pretty fast. it would get so even without a keyboard being there. this is the way i've found most comfortable for sitting at a computer all day or all night just typing stuff out. I even prefer a plastic poolside lounge chair(1 piece, cheap, doesn't soak up sweat, doesn't roll around, doesn't break) and this

      • by delinear (991444)
        I think you're absolutely right, I have tried typing wrists down on a conventional keyboard (i.e. with hammers, not an electric typewriter) and it tires you out pretty quickly compared to a computer keyboard. Even without instruction you naturally raise your wrist a little to give you momentum to strike the keys. I suspect one of the other issues with PC typing is that, for most people, their time is no longer even close to 100% typing. You used to sit down knowing what you needed to do, type out a letter o
      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        Actually it has to do with the tendons. That "wrists up" position keeps the path through the wrist joint straight so the tendons don't have to make a bend there. That's also the ideal position for keeping the carpal tunnel straight and keeping the tendons and nerves that run through it from being compressed. That, IMO, is probably the single most important thing when it comes to avoiding CTS/RSI. The problem is that most office chairs these days are too low to get proper position at a standard desk.

    • by Cato (8296)

      It's not just posture, it's also hours worked per day, timing/duration of breaks, etc. I know someone who worked 36 hours solid at the end of a project with 16 hour days for weeks, and got RSI quite badly. The posture was only one factor there.

      • I know someone who worked 36 hours solid at the end of a project with 16 hour days for weeks, and got RSI quite badly.

        I worked on fishing trawlers in Bass Straight during the early 80's; it meant stuffing 100kg bags of shellfish into the cargo hold for 30hrs straight and staying awake for 60hrs (due to the travel time to the fishing grounds, and the impossibility of sleeping in 5-10 meter swells on a 20 meter boat). I didn't get RSI, but the resulting mental state from lack of sleep had me dodging one eyed goblins, poker dotted aborigines, and other hallucinatory road hazards on the 30min drive home. After that I got the w

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.workrave.org/ [workrave.org]
    For all your Open Source RSI prevention needs (out of luck if you're using a Mac, but if the Australian Tax Office is using Macs, the cause of the RSI might be self evident then).

  • I can't help but to suspect a secondary agenda. If you just begin to imagine the resources required to monitor keystrokes, you quickly come to the conclusion that there must be an automated system looking for key words, raising flags. I honestly don't think they care so much for the cattle, or they'd simply pay for ergonomic keyboards...it's just so obvious....are they stupid, or do they think we are? Or are both things true? I dunno.
    • You assume they look for keywords but the most likely and doable thing is monitoring employees' activity.
      (keystrokes + mouse clicks)/hour * ratio of work-related websites visited = "productivity"
      It has begun. [wikipedia.org]

    • The budget is coming up and staff cuts will be made.
      Suddenly some of the facebook surfing HR people are now working on what they call a workplace health and safe issue so have suddenly become essential staff.
      Implementing it by talking about keyloggers when financially sensitive confidential information is being handled is just showing that either they have not thought it through seriously, have tried to think about it seriously but have not run it past an adult, or most likely the journalist who wrote the s
    • I agree, the software will probably have a built in ability to install an automatic update, so at any point the authorities will be able to move a key logger into place without you knowing. I think it is The same with what someone else reported, the decibal sensor on all phones, an minor update and you have location and conversation when you need. I think Australia is having some heavy "we want to know what your doing, and we are going to tell you what to do, politics". A bit scary, they used to be so fre

  • by RichiH (749257) on Monday May 09, 2011 @05:13AM (#36069990) Homepage

    Also, get a Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000.

  • There, that's the corrected headline ... How about they give the staff less work to do for the same money, that would help combat RSA.

  • Public servants don't WORK, the software is surely to MAKE them work. In-between their challenging 9 to 5 with 3 breaks and an hour lunch, there is very little time for actual WORK.

  • pornpornpornpornporn..[Ouch!]..pornpornporn....

  • the software should point out that employees aren't going to get a dime more whether they take that 5 minute break or not, so why ruin your health?

    RSI? FU!

  • I type a lot... Code for profit & fun.

    Doc said that pain in my hands and occasional numbness could be early onset of RSI.

    I switched to Dvorak 2 years ago. It took 3 weeks to get back to full speed (70+wpm coding w/ symbols), but only about 1.5 weeks to regain full touch typing ability...

    Inflammation lessened after the first few days (slower typing), but hasn't returned. YMMV.

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