Surveillance coming to the Workplace

The future workplace could include panoptic systems to monitor internal conversation, according to a recent Gartner report. In the years ahead, Gartner predicts that companies will begin to use algorithms to analyze recorded workplace communications to identify areas for organizational improvement, monitor compliance, streamline workflows, and more. However, the potential value add also comes with risks and data privacy concerns to consider.

On Nov. 20, Gartner published its “Top Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond: Resetting Everything” detailing the potential impact of various technologies on organizations in the years ahead. In the report, Gartner analysts predict that three-quarters of “conversations at work will be recorded and analyzed” by 2025, and these capabilities will enable “the discovery of added organizational value or risk.”

“A lot of the conversations we have at work, and a lot of the things that are happening in meetings, and one-to-one conversations, and in customer service and things like that, a lot of that [has] intangible value for companies,” said Magnus Revang, research vice president at Gartner.

The report also details a series of “near-term flags;” predictions about events that could arise in the years ahead as more companies begin to analyze recorded work conversations. In 2022, the analysts expect recorded conversation analysis will be used as the “primary data source” during a “major corporate acquisition” to determine which employees will be retained. In 2023, the analysts predict that a multi-billion dollar US corporation will determine compensation using automatic algorithms “with analysis of recorded conversations as a major contributor.”

In general, the ability to analyze recorded conversations introduces potential value and risks for organizations. Revang said that he believes technology is inherently neutral, however the way an organization chooses to deploy and use a technology is another consideration.

“If it should happen, we don’t make an ethics judgment on that. We’re not saying if it’s positive or negative, right? I think that’s going to be a large part of the public discussion of it once it happens,” Revang said.



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