Employee ID Badges, Dubbed 'Orwellian' In Nature, Can Track Your Location, Monitor Stress Levels, And Hear Your Conversations

Thea Conrad

An employee ID badge that can track workers' movements and listen in to their conversations is in the works to be available for companies to use starting very soon, according to a Washington Post article published on September 7.

Critics of the new device are calling it "Orwellian" in nature, meaning it sounds like something that would take place in the book 1984 by George Orwell, which depicts an extreme totalitarian society where the government always has its eye on you, and freedom is nowhere to be found for the average citizen. In the book, the government is referred to by its citizens as "Big Brother," and there are signs everywhere repeatedly reminding people that "Big Brother is watching you."

The rationale behind this employee ID badge is that it'll provide supervisors with the data they need to effectively understand your work habits and give them the information they need to help boost your performance.

With this new technology, two microphones evaluate your voice on an ongoing basis, and there are also sensors attached to each badge that monitor your location, along with motion detectors that measure your movements. Supposedly, these motion detectors will not be placed in any workplace bathrooms in order to ensure privacy.

But does this mean that the microphones are still active during an employees time in the bathroom?

The employee ID badge, which is worn around the neck on a lanyard, comes from the Boston company Humanyze, which specializes in employee analytics. CEO Ben Waber told the Washington Post that he believes this high-tech employee ID badge will be used in the mainstream work force in three to four years.

"He [Waber] and three fellow scientists, two of whom are MIT graduates and one from Finland, call their technology 'people analytics.' They developed it as part of their doctoral thesis."
"Those are things we hammer home. If you don't give people choice, if you don't aggregate instead of showing individual data, any benefit would be dwarfed by the negative reaction people will have of you coming in with this very sophisticated sensor."

Lo, who has said he will publish the results of the study sometime in 2017, claims the best performers are "emotional athletes."

"Their bodies swiftly respond to stressful situations and relax when calm returns, leaving them primed for the next challenge."

As with Waber, Lo believes these employee-monitoring devices will soon be implemented into the mainstream workforce, he says within 10 years.

What do you think? Is this new employee ID badge too Orwellian? Is it giving too much power to the higher-ups? Should employees trust their companies to use these devices responsibly? Is this just a way to acquire more control over people? Let us know in the comment section below.

[Image by Digital Vision/Thinkstock]