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The Minority Report for the business world - Solicitors Journal

The Minority Report for the business world - Solicitors Journal

By Raoul Parekh - 21 October 2015

Employers wanting to establish a new form of employee monitoring should make sure it is data protection compliant first, says Raoul Parekh

Most employees will not be surprised to learn that their employers are keeping records of websites they visit at work or scanning their email for obscenities.But some companies are now going beyond this low-tech monitoring and deploying a new generation of tools based on psychological analysis.

These products automatically scan employees’ messages 
for signs of dissatisfaction 
with the company. They apply linguistic analysis to digital communications to assess 
the likelihood of an employee becoming a risk to the organisation, perhaps by stealing confidential information. The aim is to identify the problem before it occurs, giving employers time to prevent the risk from crystallising.

For example, a dramatic increase in the number of messages a worker sends to colleagues with ‘negative’ language might be cause for closer examination. Sometimes, even a subtle shift towards referring to management as ‘they’ or ‘them’ can trigger a warning.

The system can be used both enterprise-wide, to scan all email traffic, or focus on specific groups of high-risk employees. When it identifies a potential concern, human intervention is needed to review the results and consider how to act.

The new technology promises a lot, and it has been successfully deployed in the US in high-risk environments like technology manufacturing, where theft of confidential information poses an existential risk to the business. However, it has only recently been launched in the UK market, and any company rolling it out would have to be satisfied that doing so is legal.

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