Privacy advocates have panned a new productivity tool in Microsoft 365 (opens in new tab), warning that it could herald a new era of workplace surveillance.
Launched earlier this month, the new Productivity Score tool allows employers to gather granular data about how their employees are using Microsoft's suite of services.
The intention was to allow companies to break down how much time employees are spending using typical productivity apps like email, Microsoft Teams, and Word. Dismissing Microsoft’s good intentions, data privacy researcher Wolfie Christl believes (opens in new tab) it "turns Microsoft 365 into a full-fledged workplace surveillance tool."
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As per reports, the tool allows employers to drill down into data on individual employees. They can, for instance, find those who participate less in group chat conversations, send fewer emails, or fail to collaborate in shared documents.
The tool then ranks each employee against their peers. Christl argues that this gives Microsoft “power to define highly arbitrary metrics that will potentially affect the daily lives of millions of employees and even shape how organizations function”.
“Let me be clear: productivity score is not a work monitoring tool,” wrote Jared Spataro (opens in new tab), the corporate vice-president for Microsoft 365 in a blog post. Dismissing the fears of privacy intrusions he added that employers have the option to anonymize the user information and even remove it completely.
What irks privacy advocates however is that the function is enabled by default, and companies will have to manually opt out if they are concerned about the privacy of employees. Christl believes that “this normalizes extensive workplace surveillance in a way not seen before.”
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Via: The Guardian (opens in new tab)