Report: Big Companies Using AI To Monitor Employee Messages

Some major companies like Walmart, Starbucks, Delta, Chevron, T-Mobile, and others are reportedly using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to snoop through employees’ conversations on messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

“Huge U.S. employers such as Walmart, Delta Air Lines, T-Mobile, Chevron, and Starbucks, as well as European brands including Nestle and AstraZeneca, have turned to a seven-year-old startup, Aware, to monitor chatter among their rank and file, according to the company,” CNBC reported earlier this month.

Aware’s software scans messaging platforms for keywords that could indicate an employee is unhappy with their job or even a danger to themselves or others. According to the New York Post, “The company claims it has already assessed up to 20 billion individual messages from more than 3 million employees.”

The “work from home” movement that started with COVID has made it easier for employee chats to take place online through messaging apps that companies encourage their employees to use.

Those same apps and software that make it easier for remote employees to communicate with each other, however, also make it easier for companies to “get a read on employee sentiment in real-time, rather than depending on an annual or twice-per-year survey.”

Jeff Schumann, co-founder and CEO of Aware, believes there is a key distinction between using AI to gather data and using AI to make decisions.

“A key distinction here is that Aware and its AI models are not making decisions,” Schumann said. “Our AI simply makes it easier to comb through this new data set to identify potential risks or policy violations. None of our AI models make decisions or recommendations regarding employee discipline.”

Others believe that the use of AI to “spy” on employees’ conversations, even within work hours and on work apps, will have a negative effect on the openness of communication that will occur between employees who know they are being watched by AI.

Amba Kak, executive director of the AI Now Institute, worries that the AI technology will “result in a chilling effect on what people are saying in the workplace.”