Microsoft had announced a feature for its enterprise Office productivity suite that would let employers check how much time each month employees were spending on Microsoft productivity tools like Word and Excel, but later took steps to hide employee names in these statistics. While Microsoft reportedly told Forbes that the feature, called Productivity Score, was only intended to let IT support staff in companies help employees with trouble in using these applications, concerns mounted that this feature could be used to remotely monitor employees’ productivity, potentially raising privacy concerns.
In a blog post, Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, the subscription service for the company’s productivity suite, said that names would no longer be accessible to employers. “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,” Spataro wrote. In addition, the UI would be tweaked to make it clear that insights were organisation-wide only, and don’t focus on individual users.
“These changes to the product will bolster privacy for end users, while still enabling IT professionals to measure and manage their organization’s adoption of the productivity apps and services in Microsoft 365,” Spataro wrote.
In March, as people started working from home amid COVID-19 related lockdowns, the videoconferencing app Zoom faced similar backlash for a feature that let meeting hosts track whether attendees were paying attention by tracking the windows that they had open. In response to criticism (which was heightened by the huge uptake in usage Zoom saw at that time), Zoom announced that it would remove that feature.