Feeling Down? China Monitors Brain with Headgear

Feeling Down? China Monitors Brain with Headgear

At a time when consumers in North America are stressed about data breaches and securing their personal devices, they can take solace in knowing that their stress levels aren’t being monitored at work. That’s not the case for those who work in dozens of factories and businesses throughout China.

New technology intended to be used among China’s workforce gives new meaning to the song "If You Could Read My Mind." The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that China’s government-backed surveillance projects are deploying brain-reading technology.

Employees of Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric who work on the production lines are required to wear helmets as part of their uniforms. Concealed in the required headdresses are “lightweight, wireless sensors [that] constantly monitor the wearer’s brainwaves and stream the data to computers that use artificial intelligence algorithms to detect emotional spikes such as depression, anxiety or rage,” wrote SCMP. 

It’s called the emotional surveillance program, and in the case of the State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power, the technology is credited for boosting company profits by about $315 million. 

Another company, Ningbo Shenyang Logistics, is reported to have used the brain sensor devices in virtual reality headsets “to simulate different scenarios in the work environment,” SCMP reported. The technology is used across industrial sectors in order to increase productivity.

Under the guise of detecting emotional changes in those who work on production lines so that they can adjust the work flow accordingly, employers using the technology claim to be monitoring and collecting data from worker’s brains for increased safety as well. 

Jin Jia, associate professor of brain science and cognitive psychology at Ningbo University’s business school, told SCMP, “When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake.”

MIT’s Technology Review is a bit skeptical about the capability of the tool. The Download wrote, “Claims about the technology’s efficacy are almost certainly being embellished.” It also expressed concerns over how the data collected is being used. 

“Is it being used to reassign workers – or potentially even terminate them – because of their perceived emotions? In that case, China is indeed leading the way in workplace surveillance in a way that stands to benefit no one.”

Source: Information Security Magazine