Chinese Employers Monitor Workers’ Brainwaves to Read Emotions

Companies are using biometric devices to read workers' state of mind

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek May 3, 2018

​If you're having a bad day at your job in China, your employer probably knows it by peeking at your brainwaves. Companies there are using brain sensors to detect employees' emotions such as panic, rage, depression and sadness.

More than a dozen factories in that country and its military are making emotional surveillance mandatory, Business Insider reported. Using the information, an employer can require an employee to take a break, change tasks or go home.

Organizations that use the devices are claiming an uptick in profits and productivity, and some cite the safety benefits. Sensors embedded into the brim of the helmets worn by high-speed-train conductors, for example, can detect fatigue. Some people find the development Orwellian, fearing employers using this will become the "Thought Police" and infringe upon their privacy.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles from its archives and other sources about how employers' use of artificial intelligence and biometric information can get personal. 

Bosses Read Workers' Minds: It's Not the Future, It's Now

The government-funded brain-monitoring project, called Neuro Cap, has been implemented in more than a dozen factories and businesses in China. Qiao Zhian, professor of management psychology at Beijing Normal University, said the devices could give companies a competitive boost—but warned they could also violate privacy in the worst way.

(New York Post

Viewpoint: With Brain-Scanning Hats, China Signals It Has No Interest in Workers' Privacy

If employers are really relying upon brainwave sensors, is the technology being used to reassign or potentially terminate them because of their perceived emotions? In that case, China is leading the way in workplace surveillance in a way that stands to benefit no one.

(MIT Technology Review

AI-Spy: The Workplace of the Future

As artificial intelligence (AI) pushes beyond the tech industry, work could become fairer—or more oppressive. Using AI, managers can gain extraordinary control over their employees. Amazon has patented a wristband that tracks the hand movements of warehouse workers and uses vibrations to nudge them into being more efficient. Humanyze, a startup, sells smart ID badges that can track employees around the office and reveal how well they interact with colleagues.

(The Economist

Beyond Passwords: Companies Use Fingerprints and Digital Behavior to ID Employees

Biometric authentication uses face, fingerprint or iris scans to quickly confirm a person's identity. You probably already use itap by touching the home button to unlock your phone.

In the workplace, employees are increasingly using biometrics to log in to phones and computers, and to access data stored on those devices and in the cloud.


More Employers Are Using Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication technology—including facial and voice recognition, and hand and iris scans—is now used in a majority of workplaces, according to a recent survey of IT professionals.

(SHRM Online

How to Stay Within the Law When Using Biometric Information

Companies are increasingly incorporating technologies into the workplace that use employee biometric data to accomplish these objectives. But the benefits of these technologies are accompanied by legal scrutiny, so companies must remain aware of their obligations regarding employee biometric data.

(SHRM Online

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