Major Corporations Using AI for Employee Message Monitoring

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Written By Faith Boluwatife

In today’s corporate landscape, the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor employee communications has become increasingly prevalent. 

Various major companies, including Walmart, Delta, Chevron, and Starbucks, alongside European brands like Nestle and AstraZeneca, have turned to Aware, an AI firm specializing in analyzing employee messages, to monitor chatter among their workforce.

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AI Surveillance in Corporate Communication

Aware, a startup founded seven years ago, offers AI-powered solutions that enable companies to analyze and understand the content and sentiment of employee messages in real-time. 

Credits: DepositPhotos

Jeff Schumann, co-founder and CEO of Aware, emphasizes that their AI technology helps companies grasp the risk within their communications promptly, rather than relying on periodic surveys.

Capabilities of Aware’s AI Technology

Aware’s AI models, encompassing text and image processing, can identify various behaviors such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, noncompliance, and inappropriate content like pornography or nudity.

However, Schumann clarifies that the analytics tool doesn’t flag individual employee names, ensuring a degree of privacy. Instead, its eDiscovery tool can do so selectively for extreme threats or other predetermined risk behaviors.

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Usage Among Major Corporations

While specific responses from companies were not obtained, Aware revealed that Walmart, T-Mobile, Chevron, and Starbucks are among its clients using its technology primarily for governance, risk, and compliance purposes. These companies constitute about 80% of Aware’s business.

Challenges and Concerns

However, the increasing adoption of AI surveillance in employee communications raises concerns about privacy, ethical implications, and potential chilling effects on workplace discourse. 

Jutta Williams, co-founder of AI accountability nonprofit Humane Intelligence, criticizes the notion of treating employees’ communications like “thought crime” and “inventory.”

Future Implications and Privacy Considerations

Despite assurances from companies like Aware about data anonymization, concerns persist regarding privacy and the potential for AI models to infer personal identifiers from aggregated data. 

Furthermore, questions arise about employee recourse in cases where interactions are flagged, as the opacity of AI decision-making poses challenges to defense and accountability.

AI Evolution in the Marketplace 

As AI technology continues to evolve and integrate into corporate environments, balancing the benefits of enhanced risk detection with the preservation of employee privacy and rights becomes paramount.

Credits: DepositPhotos

The widespread adoption of AI surveillance in employee communications underscores the need for robust ethical frameworks, transparent policies, and mechanisms for employee oversight and recourse.

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