New spying tools patented by Microsoft
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According to The Times, a patent application has been filed by Microsoft for a computer software that can monitor the employees' performance and state, by means of wireless sensors linking workers to their computers.
The system, considered by Microsoft a "unique monitoring system", is capable of measuring employees' movements, heart rate, blood pressure, brain signals, body temperature or face expression and can even "automatically detect frustration or stress in the user" and "offer and provide assistance accordingly". This can lead to the creation of psychological profiles and the Unions fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of such profiles.
The Information Commissioner, privacy advocates and civil liberties groups highly criticise the application. "This system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues" stated Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at Matrix Chambers while The Information Commissioner's Office said: "Imposing this level of intrusion on employees could only be justified in exceptional circumstances."
According to legal experts from law firm Eversheds, Microsoft will face major legal problems if they want to implement the system all around the world. Jonathan Armstrong, a partner in the company, told vnunet.com that the situation was especially complicated due to the international nature of Microsoft business.
The application was confirmed by the US Patent Office and could be granted within a year.
Another patent application of the company is a method to collect information about the users of cell phones, Internet, card-credits, geolocation systems in order to target advertising. Microsoft like other large companies such as Google who earn from clicks on ads, have thought of gathering personal information on Internet users in order to provide more tailored advertisements that may better catch the users' eye.
According to the Microsoft application, "an advertising component employs the user profile in connection with the delivery of an advertisement." Credit card information may be used to create a "payment history," and data relayed by cell-phone towers can also be used to locate users, and to "tailor search and advertising during online experiences so as to better interpret queries to search engines, to better target advertisements."
Brendon Lynch, Microsoft director of privacy strategy, stated that the application "will first be reviewed against our privacy standards to ensure that privacy is protected."
Microsoft seeks patent for office 'spy' software (16.01.2008)
Microsoft ponders offline profiling of Web users (23.01.2008)
Microsoft faces legal challenge to 'spy' software (18.01.2008)