A function recently introduced by Microsoft raises the eyebrows of privacy advocates. According to Microsoft, the tool called “Productivity Score” should actually help companies increase the productivity of their employees. In addition, it collects “insights into the use of technology and infrastructure”, as Microsoft writes to “forbes.com”. The group presents the solution in a blog post as an opportunity to support its employees in the home office against the background of the pandemic.
“forbes.com” on the other hand describes the instrument as a “data protection nightmare”. Because the “Productivity Score” makes it possible to monitor the activity of an employee on an individual level. Microsoft collects “73 granular data on the behavior of employees, to which employers have access and which are all linked to the employees by name in a practical dashboard,” writes “forbes.com”.
The data protection activist Wolfie Christl cancels 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.
shows that managers can use the tool to see on how many days an individual employee has sent emails and used chats or teams channels. He complains that Microsoft 365 will become a “comprehensive workplace monitoring tool”.
A new feature to calculate 'productivity scores' turns Microsoft 365 into an full-fledged workplace surveillance tool: pic.twitter.com/FC3N6KkIR3
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.
Data is aggregated over 28 days
Tech group Microsoft had apparently seen this criticism coming: “Let me make one thing clear: Productivity Score is not a tool for monitoring work,” writes Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft 365, in the blog post. The aim of the “Productivity Score” is to discover new ways of working and to enable employees to have great collaboration and technology experience.
According to Spataro, the data provided by the “Productivity Score” are aggregated over a period of 28 days. Settings are also available to anonymize or delete user information entirely. But as “forbes.com” comments, managers would have to make these settings manually.
Many criteria, unknown weighting
In the documentation for administrators, Microsoft explains that the “Productivity Score” does not assess individual performance of employees. Rather, the calculated number of points is composed of several individually calculated performance categories. The nine categories are communication, meetings, collaboration with content, teamwork, mobility, endpoint analysis, network connectivity and Microsoft 365 apps integrity.
“In each assessment category, we identify patterns for important activities that are indicators of the use of Microsoft 365 products for collaboration, communication and cross-platform work,” writes the group. However, Microsoft does not provide any further information on the weighting of the individual indicators. Accordingly, it remains unclear how the ultimately displayed score between 0 and 100 comes about.
With the pandemic and the move of many employees to the home office, many companies changed their management style. In order to control the productivity of employees, some are said to have resorted to questionable methods.
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