China tech firm develops controversial IT system that can predict whether an employee is about to resign

A user of professional networking app Maimai said he was fired after his company found out he had been applying for other jobs, using the system. The system, built by Sangfor Technologies, analyses the resignation intentions of employees by looking at their online activities. — SCMP

A Shenzhen-listed company has stirred controversy by developing a system that can predict whether an employee is about to resign by spying on activities, such as browsing job recruitment pages and sending job application emails.

The system, built by Sangfor Technologies, gained public attention after a user on, a professional networking app, said he was fired after his company found out using the monitoring system that he had been applying for other jobs.

“My boss said he knows exactly what I’m doing during work hours,” he wrote on the platform, attaching a screenshot showing the “resignation analysis system”.

Sangfor Technologies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to patent registration information on data analytics firm Qichacha, the Shenzhen company applied for a patent in 2018 for a system that analyses the resignation intentions of employees by reading the information they send to recruitment websites, social media platforms and email systems.

According to Qichacha, the system can spy on an employee’s online activities in the office to check whether an employee has checked job websites, sent applications and then rank employees by the level of perceived resignation risk.

The company, which was created in 2000, has about 100,000 clients. It has many government customers, including the State Taxation Administration, State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council and the Audit office of northern Shanxi Province, according to its official website.

But it is not clear how many companies are using the resignation risk analysis system currently. The company has also deleted pages from its website detailing case studies.

The system has sparked animated debate on social media platforms such as Weibo and Zhihu, with many users saying this kind of software program infringes personal privacy.

“It is very hard to say whether (these systems) are tracking working behaviours or personal behaviours, as they are tracking all the online behaviours via a company’s network and computers,” one user commented on Zhihu, China’s most popular Q&A platform.

No Chinese authority has made any comment on the case.

China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) went into effect in November last year. It is one of the world’s toughest regulations on data security and places legal restrictions on how personal data can be collected, used and managed. The PIPL, along with the Data Security Law, is seen as putting an end to the Wild West era for China’s technology industry. – South China Morning Post

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