Pre-pandemic, work-from-home call-center workers (mostly poor Black women) lived under surveillance that transformed "work from home" to "live at work." The tech preserved the fiction that these misclassified employees were "independent contractors."
Within days of the lockdown, this technological oppression raced up the privilege gradient in the form of "invigilation" software like Proctorio, cruel surveillance tools inflicted on university students. The company is pursuing its critics in court.
Now, every remote worker is in line to get the treatment previously reserved for misclassified employees and college kids. Microsoft has rolled out on-by-default workplace surveillance for Office 365.
The tool tracks every click and interaction by employees and presents managers with leaderboards showing relative "productivity" of each employee, down to how many mentions they get in workplace emails.
As Wolfie Christie points out in his thread, the arbitrary metrics that Microsoft has chosen will have a hugely distorting effect on workplace behavior. Remember Goodhart's Law: "Any measure becomes a target, and then ceases to be a useful measure."
This is the quantitative fallacy on steroids: software can't measure qualitative factors like whether your work accomplished "soft goals" like "a better product" or "a conceptual breakthrough."
I wonder if the programmers who built this feature are subjected to it themselves? And if not, I wonder when they will be.
I mean, they won't be in the EU. This shit is radioactively illegal under the GDPR. But Americans have FREEDOM.
Now, you may be thinking, "I bet the managers who use this tool will regret it when THEIR bosses start using it on THEM."
You're thinking too small. Microsoft has ambition: they're not subjecting MANAGERS to this, they're subjecting COMPANIES to it.
Microsoft incentivizes companies to turn on an industry-wide comparison "feature" that sends ALL YOUR EMPLOYEE DATA to Microsoft and then gives you a chart telling you how your employees fare against their counterparts elsewhere.
You get a chart. Microsoft gets fine-grained data on your company's operations - data it can sell, or mine, or you know, just lose control over and leak all over the internet. That's some unprecedented Shitty Tech Adoption Curve accelerationism right there.
Not since the day when Amazon convinced Borders Books (RIP) to use it for all digital ordering and fulfilment (giving Amazon 10)% access to all Borders' customer data) has a tech company offered a shadier B2B deal.
Last year, Slate's Future Tense and ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination asked me to write some fiction illustrating the Shitty Technology Adoption Curve. The result it "Affordances," a story that grows dismally more relevant with each passing day.
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