Microsoft is making changes to its Productivity Score tool that helps organizations measure their employees’ interaction with Microsoft 365 apps after privacy concerns surfaced last week.
In a blog post, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, detailed the changes the company is making to Productivity Score, which gives IT administrators data and insights into how employees are using Microsoft 365 tools.
Spataro’s blog comes after concern from privacy advocates that the feature was essentially a workplace surveillance tool that analyzes employee activities at the individual level.
“At Microsoft, we believe that data-driven insights are crucial to empowering people and organizations to achieve more,” Spataro wrote. “We also believe that privacy is a human right, and we’re deeply committed to the privacy of every person who uses our products.”
There are two key changes, according to Spataro:
The company is removing user names after first adding a feature that showed end-user names and associated actions over a 28-day period.
That feature will be removed entirely, and data and analytics will only be aggregated at the organizational level. Productivity score can no longer be used to see how an individual user is using Microsoft 365.
Microsoft is also modifying the user interface to make it clearer that the tool measures organizational adoption and not individual user behavior.
According to Spataro, Productivity Score produces a score for the organization and was never designed to score individual people.
One of the most outspoken critics of Productivity Score was Wolfie Christi, an Austria-based technology and privacy researcher, who called the tool a “full-fledged workplace surveillance tool” in a long series of Tweets last week.
Esoteric metrics based on analyzing extensive data about employee activities has been mostly the domain of fringe software vendors. Now it’s built into MS 365.
A new feature to calculate ‘productivity scores’ turns Microsoft 365 into an full-fledged workplace surveillance tool: pic.twitter.com/FC3N6KkIR3
— Wolfie Christl (@WolfieChristl) November 24, 2020
Other aspects of Productivity Score – like Microsoft 365 app health, network connectivity and endpoint analytics – don’t include user names and only use device-level identifiers so IT can troubleshoot issues and provide proactive support, Spataro writes.
These changes protect the privacy of end users while still allowing IT professionals to measure and manage their organization’s use of Microsoft 365 products.
Scores will still be produced by measuring communication, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork, mobility, endpoint analytics, network connectivity and app health.
“We appreciate the feedback we’ve heard over the last few days and are moving quickly to respond by removing user names entirely from the product,” Spataro wrote.
“This change will ensure that Productivity Score can’t be used to monitor individual employees. At Microsoft, we’re committed to both data-driven insights and user privacy. We always strive to get the balance right, but if and when we miss, we will listen carefully and make appropriate adjustments.”