TECH TALK: BILL MAGEE says surveillance implants in employees may not be far away
Almost half of finance company bosses have said they would consider subcutaneously microchipping employees. It raises Orwellian fears over just how far is too far when it comes to worker surveillance, issues of ethics and trust. Yet an acceleration in such futuristic work-connected human implantation technology could go mainstream as soon as 2030.
A survey of 5,000 C-Suite CEOs and MDs by IT software company Advanced found that 47% viewed such a controversial move as not out of the question. This is despite warnings it could restrict personal freedom and privacy during the working day and affect employee morale and wellbeing. It comes on top of a growth in remote working which has been accompanied by technologies such as AI, to monitor it.
According to the Trades Union Congress the financial sector already has the biggest level of wellness trackers and remote employee monitoring software. Wellness trackers may sound harmless and beneficial to the worker, but they bring privacy concerns into question as the employer can gain access to personal employee medical data.
A year-long UK Government inquiry into the harms and benefits of connected technologies has just been made public and stresses that organisations should consult with and get consent from the staffers they are watching or tracking.
Significantly, Harvard Business Review says 11 US states have passed legislation banning employers from implanting microchips or similar devices into an employee’s body.
A single chip is about the size of a large grain of rice, costs around £150 ($200) and is usually implanted between thumb and forefinger. It’s supposed to do nothing other than respond to a scanner.
People Management reports that Sweden has, to a limited extent, implemented a personal microchip policy but leaning more towards a tool for monitoring vital signs like blood pressure, sleep or movement patterns.
One expert says people will have a personal chip that they can register at multiple places, such as their office building, child’s day care, gym or anywhere else they regularly visit that requires unique identification.
A subdermal chip inserted for use as a swipe key or credit card is the latest idea being developed. Expect such a novel device to involve celebrities, Tom Cruise movies, and scammers.
All this is a questionable substitute for imbuing a workplace culture based on mutual trust.
There’s no denying microchipping can have benign even beneficial outcomes in certain situations, but surely any move involving “Big Brother” surveillance briefings should be consigned to the office shredder.
This column is supported by Exception Uk