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Worker badges track location, posture, potty breaks, and more

(BUSINESS NEWS) Workplace surveillance is becoming even more advanced, but at what cost? Why would a Humanyze need to know how long you use the bathroom?

Humanyze stressed employee

Nothing says dystopian future quite like bosses using technology to spy on their employees’ every move. Except in this case, it’s not a dystopian future, because this practice is already growing more and more common. For instance, Amazon employees have reported having to pee in bottles because they’re so heavily monitored that a bathroom break would have been logged as “wasting time.”

The most recent development in this questionable surveillance practice comes from the company Humanyze, which was developed in the MIT Media Lab in 2011 and has already established a global presence. Humanyze has created a badge for employees to wear, which monitors everything from their location in the office to their posture.

On their website, Humanyze describes this as “science-based analytics to improve business process.” Essentially, their pitch is that the technology would allow companies to get a better grasp of what initiatives are working and where productivity is getting slowed down. But with average productivity already well below the 8-hour workday, it begs the question, will this really be used to improve workflow…or punish workers who aren’t up to par?

Now, Humanyze insists it fights for data privacy, pointing out that it doesn’t record conversations and anonymizes the remaining data. But not all companies are so generous. For instance, some companies have started to microchip their staff! These practices bring up questions of workers’ rights – shouldn’t people be able to work without Big Brother watching?

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Furthermore, these potentially invasive technologies also dehumanize the workers. Humans are not machines; there are plenty of reasons why they might not act in the most “productive” fashion. A longer bathroom break could be the result of morning sickness, a chat with co-workers might be the perfect thing to clear writer’s block, and a phone call could be the result of a family member’s cancer tests.

Not to mention, everyone has different strategies for succeeding.

Look, maybe surveillance technology like Humanyze’s badges could be used to improve a workplace. In fact, it’s possible this tech could improve the lives of the workers themselves. But are the risks, like dehumanizing workers and collecting intimate data that could be stolen or sold, worth it?

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Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

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