Concerns about misuse of data on employee usage of apps like Office 365 and Teams has resulted in a rapid Microsoft U-turn.

The company had logged app usage data at a user level, and claimed enterprise customers could use the data to measure both the productivity and influence of their employees. Microsoft has now announced that it has heard the concerns about this and taken immediate action …

Background

Tools designed to measure usage of Microsoft apps assigned a so-called ‘productivity score’ to organizations. It went further, however, and allowed companies to drill down to the level of individual users, even seeing how many times they @ mentioned people in their emails.

Worse, Microsoft claimed to be able to use this data to let companies judge how influential their employees were.

Microsoft U-turn

The company says in a blog post that it is now removing user-level data.

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. 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.

We’re making the following changes to Productivity Score:

First, we’re removing user names from the product. During preview, we added a feature that showed end-user names and associated actions over a 28-day period. In response to feedback over the last week, we’re removing that feature entirely. 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.

Second, we’re modifying the user interface to make it clearer that Productivity Score is a measure of organizational adoption of technology—and not individual user behavior […]

The remaining three measures in the product— Microsoft 365 App health, network connectivity, and endpoint analytics—don’t include user names. 

Technically, some data could still be tied back to specific individuals, as it includes device identifiers, but the omission of usernames should at least make it less likely that companies will use the data in that way.

Photo: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

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