New spying tools patented by Microsoft

By EDRi · January 30, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

According to The Times, a patent application has been filed by Microsoft for
a computer software that can monitor the employees’ performance and state,
by means of wireless sensors linking workers to their computers.

The system, considered by Microsoft a “unique monitoring system”, is capable
of measuring employees’ movements, heart rate, blood pressure, brain
signals, body temperature or face expression and can even “automatically
detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance
accordingly”. This can lead to the creation of psychological profiles and
the Unions fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of such

The Information Commissioner, privacy advocates and civil liberties groups
highly criticise the application. “This system involves intrusion into every
single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy
issues” stated Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at
Matrix Chambers while The Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Imposing
this level of intrusion on employees could only be justified in exceptional

According to legal experts from law firm Eversheds, Microsoft will face
major legal problems if they want to implement the system all around the
world. Jonathan Armstrong, a partner in the company, told that
the situation was especially complicated due to the international nature of
Microsoft business.

The application was confirmed by the US Patent Office and could be granted
within a year.

Another patent application of the company is a method to collect information
about the users of cell phones, Internet, card-credits, geolocation systems
in order to target advertising. Microsoft like other large companies such as
Google who earn from clicks on ads, have thought of gathering personal
information on Internet users in order to provide more tailored
advertisements that may better catch the users’ eye.

According to the Microsoft application, “an advertising component employs
the user profile in connection with the delivery of an advertisement.”
Credit card information may be used to create a “payment history,” and data
relayed by cell-phone towers can also be used to locate users, and to
“tailor search and advertising during online experiences so as to better
interpret queries to search engines, to better target advertisements.”

Brendon Lynch, Microsoft director of privacy strategy, stated that the
application “will first be reviewed against our privacy standards to ensure
that privacy is protected.”

Microsoft seeks patent for office ‘spy’ software (16.01.2008)

Microsoft ponders offline profiling of Web users (23.01.2008)

Microsoft faces legal challenge to ‘spy’ software (18.01.2008)