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Big data allows your employer to be big brother

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Elizabeth Charnock of Cataphora at Structure:Data 2012
(c) 2012 Pinar Ozger. [email protected]

Your corporation is watching you, and it might be using Cataphora’s software, which mines employees emails, IMs and other electronic communications to determine how big of a risk a corporation might face from one bad apple.

Calling it software that can detect “people who are weird along many different dimensions,” Elizabeth Charnock CEO of Cataphora, claimed that the software isn’t intruding on an employee’s rights to privacy, because that right can’t really exist in today’s office environment where 90 percent to 95 percent of employer communication is electronic, and thus hidden to managers.

She compared today’s environment to a few decades past, when office workers would have to send communication in open mailers that passed through the mailroom and talk on phone calls in earshot of many other people. But today, someone can’t manage by walking around and trying to overhear problems. Now those problems have migrated to Facebook and email, so it makes sense that managers follow them there, she said.

“When we do hear people call it creepy, it’s a result of people being misinformed. Seventy percent of companies monitor employees electronics communications,” Charnock said.

Cataphora doesn’t just monitor those communications, however. The technology helps them filter those conversations and establish the digital tone of an employee, which is slightly different from looking for triggering keywords in an email or IM conversation. Charnock said this tool, like any tool, can be used for an employee’s benefit. She cited the example of a French company that is using it to help determine who the best managers are, despite that organization having a bunch of regional offices with few employees. There, now don’t you feel better?

Watch the livestream of Structure:Data here.

One Response to “Big data allows your employer to be big brother”

  1. Steve K

    Amazing what you can rationalize if you see money in it. And what would these algorithms have done with geniuses like Robert Pease or Jim Williams? We wouldn’t have gigahertz anything without those folks.