This AI monitoring is based on screen time and, as such, raises questions about the definition of ‘productivity’. Mazy adds that, faced with this increased surveillance, workers could – in return – start to demand time back for working late or at weekends.
According to Mazy, until recently, knowledge workers – typically, white-collar employees – were evaluated by the quality of their ideas rather than the quantity of things they produced. Now, however, AI programs claim to keep tabs on how they do their jobs and when they’re wasting time. This, effectively, puts these people in competition with machines.
While it’s fair to assume that employers check which websites their staff visit; retain email logs as possible evidence in any future disciplinary action or client dispute, and record or monitor phone calls for quality assurance purposes, modern software can now:
- take photos every three to ten minutes via the desktop’s webcam;
- take screenshots of workstations;
- track app use;
- log or count keystrokes;
- detect keywords, such as ‘football’ or ‘shopping’ or ‘résumé.’
- judge whether email content is gossip or work;
- use calendar apps to track billable hours;
- generate productivity, focus or intensity scores for employees, and
- provide a dashboard to compare employee productivity scores and assess engagement levels.
These programs can be hidden in running processes. So, people may not know that the data is being collected. Although GDPR allows employees and consumers to have access to the data being gleaned about them, they must ask for it – which they can do only if they know the data is being collected.