New e-badges raise concerns about employees’ privacy

San Francisco: A new electronic badge, developed by a US-based start-up, is enabling bosses to spy on workers, raising concerns about their rights and privacy, the media reported.

The novel device, developed by Humanyze — an MIT-incubated start-up that uses sensor-based wearable devices to improve worker productivity and save costs for companies — monitors the activities of the workers during the day in office.

Every conversation by the employees is monitored by the device. It knows if the employee is speaking, moving, walking around or sitting at the desk. It can also tell the proximity to other people wearing the badge, and even the time spent in the toilet, The Economist reported.

Information from employees’ emails, calendars is integrated with data collected by the badges. The device also has a number of sensors — Bluetooth to understand location, microphones to decode how much employees’ talk, motion sensors to look at postures and the overall activity level.

While it raises concerns about employees’ privacy, the company said that data could be used to improve the productivity of the workers, the report said.

It said that the data is anonymised and aggregated and the content of conversation is not recorded.

Humanyze sells it to companies across the globe — over 10,000 people wear its badges.

According to the report, some technology companies are going even further. Some are even microchipping their staff and photographing them at their desk using webcams. As workplace monitoring becomes more commonplace, there are legitimate worries that the data could be misused.