Microsoft Rethinks 'Employer Snooping' Feature

John Lister's picture

Microsoft is rewriting a "Productivity Score" feature that businesses could have used to monitor staff performance. The data will now be only available in aggregated form.

The feature is designed for IT and network administrators in businesses that use Microsoft 365, the subscription version of what was once known as the Office suite. The idea is that the administrators can get a better idea of which features are being used most, which would show where IT administrators might need to focus support.

Individual User Data Revealed

The problem was that the feature showed these figures on an individual user basis. Critics - led by privacy activity Wolfie Christl - feared that could allow management to get specific details on how long and in what way staff had used specific applications. That in turn could mean companies identifying those they suspected of underperforming and even using the data to justify disciplinary action or even dismissal. (Source:

Microsoft is making two changes in response to the concerns. The first is that it will remove any individual data. Instead, the feature will only produce statistics about overall use of the applications across an organization.

The second measure is a rewrite of the user interface and product documentation to explain that the term "Productivity Score" isn't meant to refer to how hard individual users are working. Instead it's meant to indicate "organizational adoption of technology."

IT Staff Disappointed

Microsoft's Jared Spataro said the company was "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." (Source:

While the changes have been welcomed by those who complained, some IT staff are disappointed with the feature. One argument was that being able to track how many times somebody had used a feature wasn't a matter of assessing their level of effort, but more a way to identify staff who might be having trouble using a new feature or not understand the advantages it brought.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Microsoft right to make these changes? Should it leave it up to businesses whether they want to use the feature to get individual use data? Is "Productivity Score" an appropriate term for the intended use of the feature?

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