Microsoft has been criticised for enabling “workplace surveillance” after privateness campaigners warned that the corporate’s “productivity score” characteristic permits managers to make use of Microsoft 365 to trace their staff’ exercise at a person degree.
The instruments, first launched in 2019, are designed to “provide you visibility into how your organisation works”, in keeping with a Microsoft blogpost, and mixture details about every part from electronic mail use to community connectivity right into a headline share for workplace productiveness.
However by default, studies additionally let managers drill down into information on particular person staff, to seek out those that take part much less in group chat conversations, ship fewer emails, or fail to collaborate in shared paperwork.
“This is so problematic at many levels,” tweeted the Austrian researcher Wolfie Christl, who raised alarm in regards to the characteristic.
That is so problematic at many ranges:
– Managers evaluating individual-level worker information is a no go
– Any analysis of group ‘productiveness’ information also can shift energy from staff to organizations
– Worker self management by way of MyAnalytics is step one to normalization
— Wolfie Christl (@WolfieChristl) November 24, 2020
“Employers are increasingly exploiting metadata logged by software and devices for performance analytics and algorithmic control,” Christl added. “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.”
In an announcement, a Microsoft spokesperson stated: “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.”
“We are committed to privacy as a fundamental element of productivity score,” wrote Jared Spataro, the company vice-president for Microsoft 365, in on-line documentation. “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.”
However the response has not reassured all critics. “The phrase dystopian is just not almost robust sufficient to explain the recent hellhole Microsoft simply opened up,” tweeted David Heinemeier Hansson, co-founder of the workplace productiveness suite Basecamp. “Simply because the status of a brand new and higher firm was being constructed, they detonate it with probably the most invasive office surveillance scheme but to hit mainstream.
“Being beneath fixed surveillance within the office is psychological abuse,” Heinemeier Hansson added. “Having to worry about looking busy for the stats is the last thing we need to inflict on anyone right now.”
Worker surveillance “has really ramped up” alongside distant working in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, as firms search extra oversight of employees away from the workplace, Dr Claudia Pagliari, a researcher into digital well being and society on the College of Edinburgh, instructed the Guardian in September.