Using smart seat cushions to monitor employees may be illegal: experts
Published: Jan 06, 2021 12:20 AM

A cushion that can detect a person's health situation, including heartbeat and sitting behaviors. 

Using intelligent seat cushions to monitor employees may be against the law, experts warned Tuesday following reports that a company in East China's Zhejiang Province had used such intelligent products to check on its employees' behavior.

An employee from a Hangzhou-based high-tech company recently revealed online that all the staff in her company were given a seat cushion, which could detect their heart rate, breathing and sitting posture as well as how much time they were seated in the chair during their work hours. If the seat senses that the user hasn't moved for a long time, it will send an alert. 

However, the data collected by the cushion is not only accessible for users but also the employers, and many have accused the company of monitoring its employees illegally. 

The company denied using the seat cushions to monitor the behavior of its employees, saying the cushions were just being tried out. 

"We aim to collect more trial data, not to monitor employees. All the collected data will be confidential and used for product development… it isn't linked to employees' attendance, or performance evaluation or bonus distribution." 

Zhu Wei, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday that if any sensitive information such as personal health data is utilized by others without the person involved being informed, it would break the draft law for the protection of personal information.

The news prompted many to express concern online. The use of high-tech products can make management more meticulous, but if they are used excessively, employees can feel disrespected and feel anxious, some said.

The smart seat is nothing more than an advanced tool to monitor employees in a cunning way, some others said. 

Previously, the news that some sanitation workers in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province had been given smart bracelets to wear at work had raised controversy. The smart bracelet is able to locate sanitation workers and if they were found to be taking a break for more than 20 minutes, they would be warned by the bracelet.