AI may be spying on your work chats

Think twice before sending that disparaging Slack message about your manager. Someone—or rather, something—could be watching. 

What happened: A growing number of large employers are using AI tools to monitor the messages employees send on company systems.

  • Walmart, Starbucks, and Nestle are among the adopters of one tool called Aware, according to CNBC. It analyzes employee chats to tell businesses how their workers are feeling, identify bullying, and flag instances of employees breaking company policies.

  • Aware says it has collected 6.5 billion messages from more than 3 million employees across its customers.

Why it matters: More powerful AI is making it possible for managers to peer over their employees’ shoulder while they work—except now they can do it with all their employees, all the time. 

  • One frequently-cited report found that demand for employee monitoring software was up 49% between 2023 and 2019, and 60% of large employers now use software to track at least some of their employees.

Why it’s happening: The rise of remote work during the pandemic pushed many managers to find new ways to track what their employees were up to (rather than, for example, “just popping by” your desk). 

  • AI tools that can analyze unstructured data, like informal chats between employees, have now made those surveillance tools much more capable than they used to be.

What’s next: Analyzing employee chats looks positively quaint compared to some of the surveillance technologies beginning to emerge, like AI that monitors customer service reps tone of voice and “smart earbuds” that beam your brain wave data directly to the corner office.—TS