One unnamed Microsoft engineer has penned an essay detailing his experience working for Microsoft on a multinational oil project known as Tengizchevroli (TCO). According to the anonymous engineer (writing for Logic Magazine under the pseudonym “Zero Cool”), oil managers for major organizations wanted Microsoft to use its tech to spy on workers in oil fields.

Tengizchevroli is a project involving Microsoft ExxonMobil, and Chevron, alongside Kazakh state-owned oil firm KazMunayGas and LukArko, a subsidiary of the Russian oil firm Lukoil. Most of the oil fields in question are operated by Kazakh workers in Kazakhstan.

In his account, the engineer says he visited the country to roll out Microsoft’s technology in the oil fields. His presence was part of an ongoing partnership between Chevron and Microsoft. TCO leaders reportedly asked Microsoft to use artificial intelligence to track workers.

The engineer writes: “This is what our Chevron partners were most keen to discuss: how to better surveil their workers.”

“They proposed using AI/ML to analyze the video streams from existing CCTV cameras to monitor workers throughout the oil field. In particular, they wanted to implement computer vision algorithms that could detect suspicious activity and then identify the worker engaging in that activity.”

Other surveillance programs were also mooted to Microsoft.

“The TCO managers also talked about using the data from the GPS trackers that were installed on all of the trucks used to transport equipment to the oil sites,” the anon engineer added. “They told us that the workers were not trustworthy. Drivers would purportedly steal equipment to sell in the black market.”

Unaware

Under the proposed spying activity, TCO managers wanted an AI model built that could track abnormal driving behavior. While that seems fair enough, the machine learning tech would also be leveraged to track productivity and even bathroom breaks. Importantly, the workers would be unaware they were being tracked.

The engineer says one manager said it would be good to “know where they are and what they are doing, if they are doing anything at all.”

No official response to the information has come from Microsoft, Chevron, or any other TCO member.