Microsoft Steps Back from the Productivity Score Cliff

Last week, Microsoft 365’s Productivity Score functionality came under fire from privacy advocates who warned that the feature could be used to fire employees. So Microsoft a bit of credit for stepping back from that particular cliff pretty quickly and making some major changes.

“Over the last week, there’s been a lot of conversation about Microsoft Productivity Score, a tool that helps organizations measure and manage the adoption of Microsoft 365,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro explains. “We’ve heard the feedback, and today we’re responding by making changes to the product to further bolster privacy for customers.”

For those unfamiliar, Microsoft Productivity Score allows administrators and managers to see which Microsoft 365 productivity products and services that users are using, and for how long. Microsoft designed the feature to “identify opportunities to improve employee productivity and satisfaction.” It’s an opt-in feature of Microsoft 365 and it works alongside other similar metrics-tracking features like Secure Score to help organizations work efficiently. But privacy advocates have called it “a nightmare” because it identifies employees by name and displays how much time they spend working.

To address these concerns, Spataro says that is making two major changes to Productivity Score.

First, it is removing user names from the product 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,” he writes. “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, Microsoft is modifying the user interface to make it clearer that Productivity Score is a measure of organizational adoption of technology and not of individual user behavior. “Productivity Score produces a score for the organization and was never designed to score individual users,” he says. “We’ll make that clearer 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.”

Kudos to Spataro and the team for moving quickly on this one.

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