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A Skinny Apple Is a Good Apple

Yesterday, Apple presented its newest product, the MacBook Air, an ultra-sleek notebook computer.

It is extremely thin – at the narrowest point it tapers to just 4mm (0.16 inches), about the width of a pencil – and when waved about its aluminium finish gives it an almost blade-like quality.

Steve Jobs shows off the MacBook Air, the slimmest laptop in the world

But then there is this:

From Timesonline comes the report that Microsoft has applied for a patent for a software product that to many–including me–seems overly intrusive into one’s personal life. While I can’t imagine life without computers, and remain in awe of their capabilities, I don’t want a machine analyzing my frustrations and trying to “fix” me, even if it is on the job. Too much, I say.

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.

The Information Commissioner, civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”. Hugh Tomlinson, QC, an expert on data protection law at Matrix Chambers, told The Times: “This system involves intrusion into every single aspect of the lives of the employees. It raises very serious privacy issues.”

Think about this and let us know your reaction, please. Do you think the good outweighs the bad in this product…or is this step taking it all too far?

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