Chinese tech system can predict whether employees are about to resign

A controversial Chinese tech system can predict whether employees are about to resign — by spying on their online activities. The boss might know what you’re up thanks to software systems that monitor employee computer usage.

Chinese social media users are up in arms over the revelation that a monitoring system created by a Shenzhen-based tech firm can predict if employees are inclined to quit their jobs — by spying on their online activities.

The system, built by Sangfor Technologies, can monitor, for example, if workers have been visiting job search sites and how much time they spent on them.

Discussion about Sangfor’s system sparked over the weekend when an anonymous social media user claimed he had been fired because his boss knew that he had submitted applications for other jobs, per the South China Morning Post.

In the post shared on professional networking app Maimai, he wrote: “My boss told me off. ‘Don’t think that I don’t know what you’re up to during office hours. I know exactly when you plan to leave!'” 

He attached a screenshot of what he said is the system used to monitor his computer activity at his workplace and identified it as a Sangfor Technologies product.

Sangfor did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The incident has since prompted a social media storm over staff privacy concerns.

Chinese tech system can predict whether employees are about to resign

Some users on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo circulated pictures of what they claim is the system, which appears to show workers’ profiles, including specific websites they browsed and even links to download PDF files of resumes sent out.

Other users said that they faced similar experiences before at their own companies. The hashtag “never send a job application using the company Wi-Fi,” one of many related threads, has been viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Weibo user @CaptainAmericaXiaowan commented: “Remember to look at job recruitment websites only when you’re home.”

Another user writing under the name @DrinkMoreMilkTea admonished critics for their naivete. “But internal computer systems will always be monitored. I thought everyone knew that,” they wrote.

Sangfor Technologies was founded in 2000. According to business data analytics firm Qichacha, the company applied for a patent in 2018 for a system that calculates employees’ perceived resignation risk. The system does this by combing through an employee’s online surfing activity.

Nikkei reported last year that Sangfor created software to track employees’ mobile browsing history whenever they use their employer’s Wi-Fi. Such systems do not require prior approval from users, the report said.

According to Sangfor’s official website, it has more than 100,000 clients, including government departments like the State Taxation Administration. Some of the company’s private sector clients include tech giants such as Alibaba and Bytedance, Nikkei reported, though it is unclear if they are using this particular tracking software. Alibaba and Bytedance did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

While this latest incident has sparked a wave of social media outrage, high-tech monitoring tools are not uncommon in Chinese workplaces.

In June, Insider reported that companies including Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina had employed an AI emotion-recognition system designed by the Chinese tech firm Taigusys to monitor employees’ emotions by tracking their facial expressions in the workplace.

That same month, it was reported that Chinese companies were allegedly using extreme surveillance to ensure workers stayed productive by logging the number of hours they spent on specific websites.

Chinese tech system can predict whether employees are about to resign

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