Artificial intelligence may analyze your chats on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other popular apps at work.

Aware, a seven-year-old firm, is being used by major companies including Walmart, Delta Air Lines, T-Mobile, Chevron, and Starbucks, as well as European brands like Nestle and AstraZeneca, to monitor employee conversation, according to the company.

Jeff Schumann, co-founder, and CEO of the Columbus, Ohio-based business, claims the AI helps companies “understand the risk within their communications,” allowing them to gauge employee opinion in real-time rather than relying on an annual or twice-yearly poll.

According to Schumann, companies can use the anonymized data in Aware’s analytics solution to analyze how employees of a specific age group or area respond to a new business policy or marketing campaign. Aware’s dozens of AI models, which are designed to read text and process photos, can also detect bullying, harassment, discrimination, noncompliance, pornography, nudity, and other behaviors, he claims.

According to Schumann, Aware’s analytics engine monitors employee sentiment and toxicity and cannot highlight particular employee names. However, he added that its separate eDiscovery tool can be used in the event of serious threats or other risk behaviors specified by the client.

Aware stated that Walmart, T-Mobile, Chevron, and Starbucks use its technology for governance risk and compliance, which accounts for approximately 80% of the company’s business.

AstraZeneca stated it utilizes the eDiscovery tool but does not employ analytics to track sentiment or toxicity. Delta informed CNBC that it utilizes Aware’s analytics and eDiscovery to track trends and sentiment to obtain input from employees and other stakeholders and retain legal records on its social media platform.

It doesn’t take a dystopian novel enthusiast to see where this may go horribly wrong.

According to Jutta Williams, co-founder of AI accountability NGO Humane Intelligence, AI introduces a new and possibly hazardous dimension to so-called insider risk programs, which have been in place for years to assess things like corporate espionage, particularly within email correspondence.

Speaking broadly about employee surveillance AI rather than just Aware’s technology, Williams said, “A lot of this becomes thought crime.” She said, “This is treating people like inventory in a way I’ve not seen.”

Employee surveillance AI is a rapidly increasing but small subset of a wider AI sector that has surged in the last year, with the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot in late 2022. Generative AI swiftly became a buzzword in corporate earnings calls, and the technology is now being used to automate processes in almost every area, from financial services and biomedical research to transportation, online travel, and utilities.

Schumann that Aware’s revenue has increased by 150% every year on average over the last five years, and its typical customer employs approximately 30,000 employees. Leading rivals include Qualtrics, Relativity, Proofpoint, Smarsh, and Netskope.

- Published By Team Nation Press News

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