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Microsoft anonymises Productivity Score feature after privacy backlash

Privacy experts had slammed the feature as a "snooper’s charter" for bosses to spy on workers

Computer user touching on the Microsoft Word icon to open the programme

Microsoft will change the way its new Productivity Score feature works so that companies can no longer see data about individual employees.

The move comes after privacy experts voiced concerns that the feature would be a "snooper’s charter" for bosses to spy on workers.

The “Productivity Score” feature was launched in October this year as part of Microsoft 365 and enabled companies to see how employees use Microsoft applications to get work done. However, the same feature allows employers to see individual data by default.

This led to some privacy experts lambasting the feature as a “full-fledged workplace surveillance tool”. Wolfie Christl of the independent Cracked Labs digital research institute in Vienna, Austria, said in a series of tweets that “employers/managers can analyze employee activities at the individual level (!), for example, the number of days an employee has been sending emails, using the chat, using ‘mentions’ in emails etc.”.

Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, in a blog post, said that “going forward, the communications, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork, and mobility measures in Productivity Score will only aggregate data at the organization level—providing a clear measure of organization-level adoption of key features.

"No one in the organization will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365”.

He said that the company now realised that there was some confusion about the capabilities of the product.

“Productivity Score produces a score for the organisation and was never designed to score individual users. We’ll make that clearer in the user interface and improve our privacy disclosures in the product to ensure that IT admins know exactly what we do and don’t track,” he said.

Sparato added that the feedback received about the feature has meant that it would move “quickly to respond by removing user names entirely from the product. This change will ensure that Productivity Score can’t be used to monitor individual employees.”

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