The working-from-home revolution that has been inflicted upon many of us is one which raises queries about how artificial intelligence could be used to monitor employees at home.
This concept is nothing new; early forms of surveillance have seen apps signal managers when workers have been away from their desk for prolonged periods of time. With the current global pandemic now forcing people away from an office space, many of which would never have been offered such flexibility, tech companies are rushing to help businesses keep an eye on their workforce.
In 2019, 50% of large corporations surveyed were using non-traditional methods to monitor their employees; analysing email text and gathering biometric data. Sales of monitoring software is booming, however, tech buyers should be wary of how legitimate many of these ventures are, with smaller, newer companies jumping upon the bandwagon.
Although many are credible tools, the majority prioritise productivity over worker’s rights and privacy. It’s clear that the worry of employers in the current climate is driving the trend, yet some see it as a breakthrough of “leadership science and artificial intelligence”.
Regardless of moral ambiguity, market competitors like InterGuard, Hubstaff, Time Doctor, Teramind and Sneek have all reported exponential growth in user licenses and sign ups.
AI’s now prominent role in employee monitoring puts the industry front-and-centre of the AI-ethics debate. Monitoring employees is legal in many places, yet the shift in societal behaviour and the invasive nature of many softwares could see changes in legislation. Prospective customers of the industry could perceive this as a risk to the burgeoning success that AI -integrated software has seen this year.
The home was always supposed to be private, and now it’s our workplace as well. The delicate balance of management and surveillance is currently being toppled by many companies looking to exert power over staff, and investments could become less valuable if laws were enacted to combat this.
The term “employee monitoring software” may seem inherently dystopian, and its infancy has seen certain rights and privacy concerns be flouted. But with competing software already being heavily discussed in all the big media outlets, it’s clear those looking to buy into AI should look this way, the new way to manage people.