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Deloitte Dabbles in Orwellian Tracking Devices

A Deloitte office in Canada had volunteers wear a device that tracked their every movement and their every conversation. The gadget looks and works like what you would expect if an ID badge had sex with an iPhone.

The maker of these devices, a company ironically named Humanyze, claims that their devices track more than where you are physically in the office, they’re sensitive enough to decode the nuance of your gestures. And although Humanyze claims that the badge doesn’t record your conversations, it does produce a detailed analysis of how and when you speak.

The mic is gauging the tone of your voice and how frequently you are contributing in meetings. Hidden accelerometers measure your body language and track how often you push away from your desk.

So at the end of every day, you’ll know exactly how many times — and with what conviction — you screamed, “Why the hell did I agree to wear this fucking thing!” Fortunately for the participants at Deloitte, Canadians never raise their voice.

The creators and the consumers of the badges are emphatic that the goal of these devices is not to find and punish slackers and rebels. However, the accuracy of the device is unclear. Will the Humanyze badge mistakenly report that you were having sex in the breakroom when you were merely trying to get a coworkers keys out of his or her pocket using your penis?

The goal of these badges is individual and team productivity and effectiveness.

"To be able to show you — here's what the people who get promoted do … here's what the top performers do, here's what the happiest people do — and show that change over time and how your behaviour is changing over time" is very powerful, [the CEO of Humanyze] said.

They’re saying that people using the device receive actionable data that they can use to get ahead at their firm. For instance, you may realize that you need to start popping Imodium because top performers only take a shit once every three days.

"The minute that you get the report that you're not speaking enough and that you don't show leadership, immediately, the next day, you change your behaviour," said [the] analytics leader at Deloitte, who steered the Newfoundland pilot.

Plus there’s the observer effect where individuals “up their game” in response to their awareness of being observed. You don’t fuck off in the break room for an hour and a half if you think the partners are watching. You hang the Humanyze badge on your chair under your coat, and then you go fuck off in the break room for an hour and a half.

They're intended to help balance group discussions, create a work environment with positive interactions and show how each employee fits into the bigger picture using irrefutable data.

Because when it comes to whether or not you’re a shitty leader, nothing’s as irrefutable as  body language and tone of voice.

The issue with these devices is the value of privacy versus productivity, and some people still cling to their outdated need for privacy.

Businesses have every right to monitor their employees' performance. "You're there to work, you're being paid," [Ontario's former information and privacy commissioner] said, "And if it is made very clear to you that we monitor your [actions] … then the employee has the choice whether they want to work in a workplace like that. I think it is unreasonable to think that workplaces and employers are not going to use every means available to increase efficiency and productivity."

And technically “every means available” includes meth.