Microsoft will modify its Productivity Score tool after snooping criticism

Companies could see how often individual employees carried out actions in Microsoft 365.

Microsoft will modify the Productivity Score function of Microsoft 365 following privacy concerns. The company rolled out the tool in October to help companies understand how workers adopt and use technology. It provides scores out of 100 on several factors, including communications and teamwork.

Critics claimed the tool would allow organizations to snoop on employees, because some functions were linked to usernames. According to a demo video, the tool could show how many days within a 28-day period that workers (who were identified by name) sent email, used chat, posted in Yammer or included @mentions in emails. This data was visible by default, though those insights could be turned off.

In response to the backlash, Microsoft says it will remove usernames from Productivity Score. Instead, the "communications, meetings, content collaboration, teamwork, and mobility measures in Productivity Score will only aggregate data at the organization level," Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jared Spataro wrote in a blog post. As such, no one in an organization "will be able to use Productivity Score to access data about how an individual user is using apps and services in Microsoft 365."

Three of the other factors the Productivity Score monitors — Microsoft 365 App health, network connectivity, and endpoint analytics — weren't linked to usernames in any case. Instead, according to Spataro, those scores used "device-level identifiers" to help IT departments identify and address various issues with proactive tech support.

Spataro noted that the tool wasn't designed to score individual user productivity — it was supposed to center on the adoption of tech within an organization. Microsoft plans to clarify that 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."

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