A new Orwellian ID badge developed by a Boston-based company will give employers the ability to monitor their employees’ exact location and record everything they say in realtime.

The new badge, which hangs from the employee’s neck, is equipped with two microphones that perform real-time voice analysis and sensors that track the employee’s movements.

To provide some level of comfort to those who fear the new badges will violate their privacy, the company behind the badges has “assured” the public that the beacons used to track movements are not used in bathrooms.

“Within three or four years, every single ID badge is going to have these sensors,” said Ben Waber, chief executive of Humanyze, an employee analytics company based in Boston. “We are only scratching the surface right now.”

Waber, along with three scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), developed the technology used as the basis to for the new ID badges as part of their doctoral thesis; they refer to their technology as “people analytics.”

JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are planning to install systems that monitor worker emotions to “boost performance and compliance.”

The decision by big banks to pursue such technology comes after an experiment conducted by MIT finance professor Andrew Lo, in which he rigged a conference room with monitors to track 57 stock and bond traders who were equipped with wristwatch sensors to track pulse and perspiration.

“Imagine if all your traders were required to wear wristwatches that monitor their physiology, and you had a dashboard that tells you in real time who is freaking out,” Lo said. “The technology exists, as does the motivation—one bad trade can cost $100 million—but you’re talking about a significant privacy intrusion.”

Even Bloomberg agreed that technology used to conduct emotional surveillance “has an undeniably dystopian vibe, like a finance version of George Orwell’s 1984.”


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