Microsoft has apologized for activating a feature called “Productivity Score”, which critics say is the equivalent of monitoring the workplace.
The company said it would now make changes to the service, which would allow IT administrators to help “get the most out of their people” from its products to limit the amount of information about individual employees shared with managers.
“At Microsoft, we believe that data-driven insights are critical to empowering people and organizations to achieve more,” Jared Spataro, Microsoft 355’s corporate vice president, said in a statement. “We also believe that privacy is a human right, and we are deeply committed to the privacy of everyone who uses our products.”
The main area of use of the Productivity Score service is at the organizational level: administrators can use it to view technical information about their network, and to understand how employees are using features such as chatrooms and scheduling tools.
But that information is also seen on a user-to-user basis, potentially allowing managers to identify individual employees who weren’t contributing enough, or using tools in the right way.
Now, Microsoft says, it will completely remove individual usernames from productivity scores. “Going forward communication, meeting, content collaboration, teamwork and productivity score dynamics measures will only consolidate data at the organizational level – key features will provide a clear measure of organization-level acceptance,” Spatoro said. “No company will be able to use user scores to access data about how an individual user is using applications and services in Microsoft 355.”
The company is also changing its branding around this feature to make it clear that the “productivity” that is being achieved is not that of an individual, but of the organization. “The productivity score creates a score for the organization and was never designed to score individual users,” Spatoro added.
Jeffrey Snower, a senior engineer at Microsoft and CTO of the company’s “Modern Workforce Transformation” unit, praised the change and first alerted Austrian privacy worker Wolfy Crystal to the feature.
Snower tweeted, “What I like most about Microsoft is that we acknowledge the error and correct it when we’re at fault,” Snower tweeted. “10,000 thanks to Wolfie Crystal and others for the feedback that caused this change!”