The use of facial recognition to monitor employees in the workplace is increasing. The latest to join the ranks is the Japanese camera manufacturing company Canon. The company has installed biometric ‘smile recognition’ technology for facial scanning at the Beijing headquarters of its Chinese subsidiary, Canon Information Technology. Employees are now required to smile to access an office, book conference rooms, or print documents. Canon believes this will encourage a more positive and lively atmosphere, but many employees expressed concerns about a dystopian workplace, stating that the company now manipulates not only their time but also their emotions.

Zoom Out: Canon’s smile recognition cameras are part of a suite of its AI-powered workplace management tools announced last year. The pandemic has only accelerated the adoption of these “digital leash” technologies. And it’s not only used in China; such tech is also ubiquitous in the US and the UK. Amazon fires employees based on algorithms ranking their productivity, and modern software suites such as Microsoft 365 come with built-in surveillance tools. As more people work from home, companies have been deploying these features to prevent the loss of control over their workers.

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