I don’t know about you, but I’ve sent some pretty (harmless) work gossip via e-mail and text message before. Nothing psychotic, maybe just a “can you believe so-and-so is making me close up by myself?” to a friend. I’ve kept it totally professional and discreet, because the last thing I ever wanted was to be busted sending inappropriate messages concerning work, because a) that’s embarrassing, and b) I don’t ever really feel like getting fired.
However, the ever-innovative Google team just recently came up with a solution to all the ill-advised or troublesome messages that could potentially cause some issues between employee and employer. Google has created a phrase-checker (kind of like a cross between spell-check and the ultimate tattle-tale) called the “Policy Violation Checker,” software that would allow individuals to totally oversee anything that isn’t kosher.
The software could run on a computer, a stand-alone electronic device, cell phones, television, iPad and pretty much anything that has a computer system. If this Google software is implemented by your company, no one is safe.
According to Google, the goal is to decrease lawsuits that can occur within companies, and other incriminating disclosures. Basically, it’s a system that tries to catch you before you royally mess up. Let’s say you’re typing: “gee, Google is kind of violating our privacy rights here. I don’t think this whole Big Brother software is really a good idea.” The “Policy Violation Checker” could highlight the sentence, indicating foul play, and suggest a more gentle phrase, like, “Gee, Google is sure doing their best to protect everyone’s best interests by creating this new, technologically advanced application.” And if you choose to over-ride the software’s suggestion, then your message gets sent over to your boss or HR.
The major problem with this innovation is that it not only violates our rights to privacy, but it really leaves the door wide open for a snowball effect. Since the application leaves users free to determine what phrases are considered “problematic” or “inappropriate,” this could mean the operator has full control over what you, the employee, say. This “phrase-checking” could easily turn into full blown censorship. With this program in effect, people could become totally paranoid about what they just virtually sent to their co-worker, friends and family, even if it has nothing to do with work. How long would it be until we won’t be allowed to think about problematic phrases?
Luckily, as of yesterday, Google spokesman Matt Kallman stated that even if the patent for this program is approved, we might not exactly have the technology to go through with it yet. Phewf.
So, you’re still allowed to think, write and type whatever you want! For now.