The U.S. military has to evaluate a massive number of people before selecting them. The candidates go through a rigorous evaluation process before they are selected. Every HR department in the world goes to all lengths to make sure that they hire the right people for the job. Coupled with that, they also invest in the best employee monitoring software so they can ensure that the person they have hired is trustworthy.
With technology paving its way into everything, it seemed to have found its way into the Defense Security Service (DDS) as well. DDS believes that machine learning and AI has the ability to create a brighter future for the U.S. military. DDS already carries out digital activity monitoring using some of the best employee monitoring software. The department’s latest AI-enabled pilot project comes with the ability to detect the micro changes in the behavior of people having top-secret clearances. The pilot is out for more information compared to the current trend. If the pilot proves to be a success, it would re-define the future of corporate HR.
The system would observe and analyze the employee data from what the employees do online and the information the employees provide via initial screening procedures. But, it does raise questions as to how much the companies in the future should monitor their employees’ digital life in the near future.
How does the pilot work
The latest project by DDS, which they are calling the risk-based user activity pilot, monitors all the online activity of the employees which includes emails, social media activity as well as web browsing history. The pilot is designed in such a way that it detects the slightest changes in the employees’ behavior so that it can find the disloyal workers and eliminate the future risks that they might cause.
The aim of the pilot is to sort through huge amounts of data and then, apply it on those who seek or, have security clearances. The concept also allows the employers a peek into their workers’ digital lives which leads to a variety of question regarding the relationship between the employees, employers and the information in AI age.
It senses the micro-changes in the behavior of the employees with top-secret clearances via their digital footprint. It collects a person’s digital footprint which involves everything they do on the internet and then cross-referencing it with the data DDS already happens to have on the person. As you can know everything about a person from what they do online, the digital data provides a complete picture.
This way, the system can point out the employees who have betrayed the company’s trust. The idea is not only to identify employees who were disloyal and broke their trust but to foresee which of the employees are capable of doing so. This way, any issues can be timely resolved while opting for conversation rather than punishment.
They need for such a technology
Last year in June, the DDS was doing the job of working through the bottleneck of security clearance. The new pilot system is to meet the current security clearance backlog of over 600,000 people.
According to the National Background Investigations Bureau’s September report, an average prospective candidate for the Defence Department and the companies who were interested in hiring them usually wait over a year.
This delay occurs because of an old system that requires sending questionnaires to former places of employment that sometimes even include summer jobs which the applicant took up in their teenage and then waiting for a response. The last step involves scanning the paper document after its return into a mainframe database which existed before cloud computing. The process is old-fashioned, but at the same time, it directs focus on the fact that the past serves as an introduction of the individual as well as the determinant of future behavior.
How would it work?
Mark Nehmer is the person behind this new method of knowing about the potential risks of employees’ risk. He is the technical director of research and development and technology transfer at DSS National Background Investigative Services.
The pilot would use machine learning algorithms to gain insight. It seeks a wider range of digital information and then merges it with the other data already available within the Defense Department. Holding secret or a top-secret clearance brings with it power and it is a tradeoff.
The system analyzes the data from the online activity and the information provided via the screening process. DDS claims that this would remove any chances of a data breach from those who are holding security clearances.
Once it is completely constructed, it will monitor all the data generated in the cyber world. It is based on IP and has date stamp as well without any name linked to it. In order to combine the two, you have to go to a different set of logs. According to Nehmar, when a person seeks a job that involves sensitive national secrets, he agrees to give up a lot of information about themselves.
The digital data from web activity is merged with a continuous evaluation which happens to be a system that monitors the life events related to the clearance holders. These include getting married, divorced, having a lot of debt, arrests, tax returns and abrupt traveling to foreign countries. More than a million military personnel are presently enrolled in the current continuous evaluation system.
The system can not only sense the approaching insider crime but intimate states of pre-crime as well, says Nehmer. It serves as a window into a person’s past as well as the present state of mind.
He said, “We can begin to add whether or not the activity that the individual is producing is increasing, decreasing, or staying within a fairly normative range,”
“Fundamentally, we are there to look out for micro changes in behavior that might indicate that a person is interested, or disinterested, in continuing their affiliation with the Department of Defense, or discontinuing their affiliation with life.”
Not everyone is particularly enthusiastic about employers detecting micro-changes in their behavior especially if they believe they might be punished for what those changes determine. Already people are apprehensive regarding employers using the best employee monitoring software to monitor their employees’ activities.
According to Nehmer, an ideal solution is if the employee and the manager have a detailed conversation before the occurrence of actual crime or any issue at workplace or the other one could be identifying the changes in the life pattern that could assist in knowing that an individual is heading to do some action where they might need some time of intervention. According to Nehmar, that intervention could be a person talking to them and if they have gotten side-tracked, to bring them back on track. We don’t want to lose any of our valuable staff and want to help our valuable employees remain that way.
Patrick Tucker from Defense One did a detailed report regarding the technology. Defense One is a US specialist publication on the development in the military.
According to Griff Ferris, who is the legal and policy officer at the Big Brother Watch, says that this technology sets a worrying example. He said, “Using artificial intelligence to closely monitor employees’ every move at work as well as their personal lives in an attempt to predict what they will do in future is the epitome of total surveillance.”
He was also asked about the probability of AI surveillance in the corporate sector to which he said that not enough is known about it, but the Trade Unions Congress workplace monitoring report has revealed that over 56% of the employees think that their activities are monitored at work.
Over the years, the technology used in the military becomes commercialized. GPS tracking is one such example which was developed in the 1970s especially for the military and is now used all over the world in cars, separate GPS trackers and phones.
Mr. Nehmer emphasizes on the fact that the objective of this pilot is not to put the people in cuffs but to find out the changes before the punishment become absolutely inevitable. Although the system is just a concept presently but certainly raises concerns regarding the accessibility of our personal data to the employers.
DDS experts are of the view that as it is common with military tech, companies might take up such a technology in the future and create something similar to it. They might create a new form of the best employee monitoring software. 70% of them believe that surveillance would become an upward trend in the future and the government should make sure that employers monitor their workforce for legal reasons only.