‘Missing from desk’: AI webcam raises remote surveillance concerns | Working from home
For anyone concerned that an era of home working could also become one of remote surveillance, the training video for Teleperformance’s in-house webcam security system, called TP Observer, is the stuff of bad dreams.
Explained by “Anna”, a desk-sitting avatar complete with an artificial voice, the video introduces TP Observer as “a risk-mitigation tool that monitors and tracks real time employee behaviour, and detects any violations to pre-set business rules”.
Anna explains that this means home workers will have an AI-enabled webcam added to their computers that recognises their face, tags their location and scans for “breaches” of rules at random points during a shift.
These include an “unknown person” detected at the desk via the facial recognition software, “missing from desk”, “detecting an idle user” and “unauthorised mobile phone usage”.
Anna says: “Any breach detected by the AI triggers a real-time alert to the supervisor for further actions.” This means a still photo is snapped and sent to a manager.
The video includes a series of avatar-staff asking questions, including one who asks whether the system is “a breach of my privacy at home”. The manager tells him the scanning is needed to “help us with risk mitigation and data security, which is required by most of our customers”.
Another digital employee asks if they will get into trouble if children or other family members approach their home workplace. Not “as long as the people in the background are not directly looking into the screen, or very close to it”. Anna replies. Staff should sit with a wall behind them “to avoid such breaches”, she says. Strong lights should be used for night shifts, so the camera can see properly.
Teleperformance said the system would not be used for UK staff, but it is expected to be used in a number of 30-plus other countries where the French-based multinational operates and where labour laws are less strict.