Microsoft’s new Productivity Score gets the knock for being a workplace surveillance tool

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Newly launched Microsoft’s Productivity Score has come under the hammer for being a workplace surveillance tool. Privacy experts have knocked down the feature because it possesses all the ability to work as a surveillance tool for employers.

The tool allows employers to break down how much time employees are spending on work tools such as Word, email, and Microsoft Teams. Managers can use Microsoft 365 to track employees’ activity at an individual level. Interestingly, the tool lets employers drill down into data on individual employees. Employers are able to find those who participate less in group chats, send fewer emails, or failed to collaborate in shared documents.

Austrian researcher Wolfie Christl in a tweet said “this is so problematic at many levels.” Indeed it gives cause for concern, and could be a topical issue among some European countries especially as it concerns users’ privacy.

“Employers are increasingly exploiting metadata logged by software and devices for performance analytics and algorithmic control,” Christl added per The Guardian. “MS is providing the tools for it. Practices we know from software development (and factories and call centres) are expanded to all white-collar work.”

Responding to these claims, a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement per The Guardian said:

Productivity score is an opt-in experience that gives IT administrators insights about technology and infrastructure usage. Insights are intended to help organisations make the most of their technology investments by addressing common pain points like long boot times, inefficient document collaboration, or poor network connectivity. Insights are shown in aggregate over a 28-day period and are provided at the user level so that an IT admin can provide technical support and guidance.”

Allaying the fears surrounding the Productivity Score feature, Jared Spataro the corporate vice-president for Microsoft 365, in online documentation said:

We are committed to privacy as a fundamental element of productivity score. Let me be clear: productivity score is not a work monitoring tool. Productivity score is about discovering new ways of working, providing your people with great collaboration and technology experiences … For example, to help maintain privacy and trust, the user data provided in productivity score is aggregated over a 28-day period.”

How Microsoft’s response assuages the fears of experts and other interested parties remains to be seen. One thing is certain, we have not heard the last of this as governments and individuals will definitely respond to this.

As an employee how do you feel with news like this? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Would you like to share your views with us?

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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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