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Microsoft Wants To Monitor Your Workplace With AI, Computer Vision and the Cloud (gizmodo.com) 112

"If you're an employee under the heel of a giant corporation you should probably be terrified by the vision of the future of connected gadgets that Microsoft just revealed at its Build developer conference here in Seattle," warns Gizmodo. Slashdot reader dryriver writes: Gizmodo reports on a Microsoft Workplace Monitoring demo where CCTV cameras watch a workplace -- like a construction site -- on 24/7 basis, and AI algorithms constantly oversee and evaluate what is happening in that workplace. The system can track where employees are, where physical equipment and tools are at what time, who does what at what time in this workplace and apparently use Cloud-based AI of some sort to evaluate what is happening in the workplace being monitored. Spotting employees misbehaving, breaking workplace rules or putting themselves and expensive equipment at risk may be the intended "value proposition" this system brings to the workplace. Another aspect may be reducing insurance premiums employers pay by creating a strict, highly monitored work environment. But the system is also very Big Brother -- an AI is monitoring people and equipment in a workplace in realtime at all times, and all the data ends up being processed in the Microsoft Cloud.
Gizmodo gave their article the title, "Microsoft's Latest Workplace Tech Demos Creep Me Out."
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Microsoft Wants To Monitor Your Workplace With AI, Computer Vision and the Cloud

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 14, 2017 @10:38AM (#54413907)

    Can't wait for this to become compulsory and industry standard. Just what the cube farm needed more discomfort!

    • Contrary to common belief on slashdot, not every company would want this, and even then, not every manager would want this for their department. When it comes to management, there are generally two schools of thought:

      1) Employees are fundamentally lazy and require constant supervision for maximum productivity
      2) Employees are fundamentally motivated to do their job, and if you empower them to make more decisions without needing to consult you, then they do their job more efficiently and provide better custom

      • When it comes to management, there are generally two schools of thought:

        1) Employees are fundamentally lazy and require constant supervision for maximum productivity 2) Employees are fundamentally motivated to do their job, and if you empower them to make more decisions without needing to consult you, then they do their job more efficiently and provide better customer satisfaction.

        Both of these theories are valid, and both are used, though which one is used depends on the particular job and the particular employees that you hire.

        The problem is basically every office consists of a mix of those people. I am mostly in the first category yet my office is generally managed on the second principle and there are those people here. I guess it works to a degree because I'm motivated enough not to get hassled and I do all work assigned to me and don't miss deadlines but on the other hand I could do my work a lot better and quicker if I could be bothered or should I say motivated properly.

  • Giving up your privacy is ok, as long as it does not involve Microsoft.

    Asking consumers to give their data to a big faceless corporation like Google so it can sell ads is one thing—but asking them to also give all that data to the people who sign their checks is another.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 14, 2017 @10:43AM (#54413937)

    Wonder if Microsoft has implemented this software on their own premises? Given Microsoft's track record, how long will it take some hacker to mess with the AI and gets some company on the hook for wrongful termination based on erroneous data?

    Captcha: captive

    • Wonder if Microsoft has implemented this software on their own premises?

      Yup, nothing new. http://sierrachest.com/gfx/gam... [sierrachest.com]

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 )

      Given Microsoft's track record

      Track record of what? Please tell us how many times Microsoft's servers containing data have been breached and corporate data leaked? Tell me about all those breaches that have happened on their Azure cloud, and on OneDrive. I'm keen to know.

      Now given the track record of *people*, of *users*, yeah this may not be a good idea. But senseless Microsoft bashing is just that, senseless. Unless you can come up with some information about how horrible their track record actually is.

      • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @12:36PM (#54414377) Journal
        Convicted abusive monopolist, just like ATT and Standard Oil. Microsoft earned all of the hate it gets. Also, it outright tried to kill Linux by funding SCO. Dont fucking defend M$ here.
        • I never said they weren't a monopolist. I will defend Microsoft against things they aren't guilty of and crucify them for the things they are.

      • Track record of what? Please tell us how many times Microsoft's servers containing data have been breached and corporate data leaked?

        This particular story is probably hyped up, but thousands and thousands and thousands. Canada looks good, though.

      • I dropped the link somehow [nytimes.com]. Thousands and thousands!
        • So your example of *their* servers and *their* cloud services being compromised is a link talking about other people being compromised as a result of what has as the initial attack vector a phishing email opened by people without updated security patches and poor network design?

          Thank you for proving my point with your link. Evidently people's data is much safer in MS's hands than their own.

    • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @12:24PM (#54414321)

      Wonder if Microsoft has implemented this software on their own premises?

      Yes, they've been testing this system for a long time. One success story is that they were able to train the software to recognize chair throwing, and it enabled them to eventually identify and eliminate all executives who practiced that behavior.

  • Freedom (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @10:47AM (#54413963)
    Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and free us. How come with every advance, it feels more like oppression?
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Because there are a lot of bad people in the world that crave power over others. Of course, their willing suppliers (Microsoft here) are even worse.

    • Because there's profit to be extracted. Microsoft and other vendors can sell this software to your employer, and your employer can scare a few extra minutes of "productivity" out of you for their bottom line.
    • That whole citizen emancipation BS was a lie sold to gullible hippies back in the day and has now been swallowed wholesale by a credulous Millennial generation who happily sell their privacy down the river for some cheap virtual baubles. By the time they wise up and realise what they've done it'll be too late. Old head, young shoulders - never happens.

    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      Because technology is nothing more than a tool. It is only a means to an end if used in that fashion.
      Like any tool, the outcome of its use is attributable to the operator.

      Now think about the kind of people who are being given the use of this tool...

    • Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and free us. How come with every advance, it feels more like oppression?

      Because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Additionally, power always seeks more power, control always seeks more control. People, overall as a species, treat each other like shit. The more disconnected someone is from their fellows, the easier it is to dehumanize them, think of them as 'assets' or 'human resources' or 'workforce' rather than 'men' and 'women' and 'fellow human beings', therefore it's easier to treat them like the automatons that, ironically, so many are convinced are g

  • Because of course, Microsoft will have absolutely perfect security, preventing any and all attempts to hack in and steal it.

    You can absolutely trust them. So feel fine recording everything your employees do, allowing your competitors to buy the videos. Microsoft of course will try their very best to protect your company's most important data.

    They will even refund the money you pay them after you lose millions. If you can figure out what happened.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    to make the technology mandatory in the workplace. After all, the necessity of tracking everyone and everything, every piece of equipment, logging when the most menial task is accomplished or when employees are not being 100% productive will be necessary when the logs are used by the corporate bean counters to justify their own positions. On second thought... if it eliminates bean counters, it's a good thing.

    Almost seriously, if you could log and maintain all that data (on a Microsoft cloud of course, we'l

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @10:57AM (#54413995)

    There are pretty strict limits on monitoring employees in Europe. These are not merely in place to protect human rights. As it turns out, employees monitored permanently are under more significantly stress, perform worse, make more mistakes, have more sick days and have about zero loyalty to their employer. Pretty much the same reason why slave-labor is usually of low quality, quality too low for modern jobs.

    As is typical for them, a Microsoft "innovation" makes things worse for everybody. Microsoft just does not have it. They are fundamentally lacking any understanding of how the world actually works. No surprise for a company that owes the single reason why they are big to a historical accident.

    • As it turns out, employees monitored permanently are under more significantly stress, perform worse, make more mistakes, have more sick days and have about zero loyalty to their employer.

      That's really the important point here. Draconian management may extract a little more productivity in the short run (maybe) but end up with malicious compliance, employees who do the bare minimum, and spend as much time figuring ways around the system as they do actually producing. And, as mentioned, zero loyalty. That type of management responds by cracking down even more, and productivity drops further.

      Treating people decently actually works. But that isn't exactly what's taught in MBA programs.

  • Management needs to remain mindful of the fact that the company will lose value when they cannot find employees willing to work for a company where there is no trust relationship between the workers and management.

  • Back to the Future (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @11:02AM (#54414023)

    Back 10-15 years ago, Microsoft had a reputation for getting their products into businesses seen as having Microsoft-resistant tech folks by completely bypassing those tech folks... wining and dining VPs or even the CEO, who then mandated that the company was going to implement Exchange (or whatever). This just seems like a variant of that older playbook.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I saw a large organization that refused Exchange get audited for Microsoft licenses

  • Oh goody (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @11:17AM (#54414061)

    Monitored and evaluated by a computer every minute of the workday, sounds like fucking paradise.

  • said that this kind of monitoring is illegal in my country (Italy), when I hear this kind of proposal I feel a compulsive need of revolt...
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @11:37AM (#54414141)

    I remember in the 80es or 90es, when there was yet another craze for the latest fad in 'efficiency', and some people had to clock in and -out to go to a break or the toilet. Imagine the surprise, when it turned out that people don't thrive when they feel they are not trusted to do their job well, and productivity fell. Perhaps this will catch on in management circles, for a while, but it will fizzle out in the end, because it will cost money and it will harm productivity.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @11:55AM (#54414209) Homepage Journal

    Monitoring, monitoring, eggs, beans and monitoring. That hasn't got much monitoring in it.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @12:03PM (#54414259)

    ... to be used for training future robots

  • My old employer sold its sould to MS last year. I fully expect those employees left (after outsourcing it all to an Indian Company NIIT) will soon be tracked with Piece of Dogshite.
    Indeed, the BORG is with us.
    Do people really think that they will put up with this surveillance 24/7? At home, at the movies with the family? Well it will track you if you carry any workplace issued kit (eg a phone) with you.

    Fuck no! MS can go take a dump for all I care. I am so glad that I got rid of all my Windows systems.

    Phew!

  • We saw the demo in the online conference. We joked it would announce, "Fred is picking his nose in cubicle 47, which is a violation of health and safety guidelines! Fred will be escorted out..."

  • IANAL, but there is a reason why any sane company has record retention policies and other deliberate forms of 'blinders'.

    Once you begin to observe and collect some stream of information, it doesn't reduce your exposure, it might actually increase it. I can already see attorney's salivating at the opportunity for discovery. Nobody does anything perfect 100% of the time, and it is not uncommon for safety rules to conflict with one another, or actually have to break a rule to rectify an emergent and immedi
    • Now your required safety hi-viz is a giant QR code, that takes the strain off the recognition!

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Sunday May 14, 2017 @02:38PM (#54414813)
    One of the greatest keys to efficiency in many types of positions, especially those which require sitting behind a desk, is employees knowing under their own judgment when it is okay to goof off for two or three minutes here and there. I am not talking about the manager facebooking all day, I am talk about the people who get things done. It is important for desk jockeys who know the workflow and their environment well enough to be able to stop what they are doing for a moment, scan some headlines, toss a stress ball around, or whatever, and then get back to it. This produces better work and a happier workplace. Lunches are great and so are breaks. But being able to take a quick BS moment or two out of the day is essential. I could carry on about this as a philosophy, but I'm betting most people here know what I am talking about. We do not need this. We cannot have this... well, unless it means firing deadweight middle management. Perhaps then we can make a deal.
  • but but but but......"with a computer!"

  • I keep preaching every chance I get, and M$ fans keep acting like they'll always have choices when the reality is you won't, unless you want to switch to a better OS. ;)
  • And other situations where you'd want better control over your meat-bots, like fast food. Did employee #215346 wash their hands for the proper amount of time before returning to the food assembly line? Did they drop food on the floor and then serve it anyway?

    Actually, this technology makes a lot of sense. Total enforcement of corporate policy with fewer middle managers needed for a large work force. It's not like the peasant scum won't still scramble over themselves for any job they can get, at least the on

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