Every other headline – or so it seems – bursts with the tech news of the moment: 

Big Data stalks us. 

Big Data records what I do IRL (in real life). 

Big Data is leading to personalized medicine.

Big Data will recruit me.

Most of these announcements we shrug off, saying B.D. is somewhere between hype and hyperbole, at least for the moment.  What we can’t quite swallow, though, are the digital patterns now being plumbed in what’s called workforce science. 

Proponents say that access to our e-files shows how we work and communicate …  all in efforts to build better workers, who are more innovative, more creative, more productive. 

Detractors clamor about the limits of surveillance, wanting to know what data is being collected and how it’s being used. 

What’s more, Big Blue and Deloitte, among others, are buying up firms that specialize in the algorithms of and insights into employees; the former having acquired Kenexa in 2012; the latter, Bersin in the last few months.  Even eHarmony is mating with different suitors these days, intending to enter the talent search business by revising its codes.

These trends concern us:  It’s one thing to figure out whom to hire and how to recruit through different apps and smarttech.  It’s quite another to dig into our hot buttons, through, say, the email we send and the videos we watch, to calculate motivations and measure productivity.  Companies like Evolv which advises companies on hiring and managing hourly workers through B.D. show promising results for recruiting longer-term call center employees, a notoriously difficult retention task (turnover can be up to 100 percent each year).  On the other hand, when data scientists note that call centers are our “initial focus,” inquiring minds think otherwise. 

It’s your turn, dear reader.  Shades of Big Brother or the (mostly) harmless progress of life?