Microsoft Corp’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) new “Productivity Score” technology has been criticized for enabling employee surveillance in the workplace. The tool allows employers to measure how employees use chat, email, and other digital tools.
Productivity score criticized for being a surveillance tool
According to privacy campaigners, this is a new way of workplace surveillance because it allows employers to use Microsoft 365 to track employees’ activity at individual levels. Austria-based digital rights non-profit, Cracked Labs researcher Wolfie Christi raised the issue about the feature being a full-fledged surveillance tool. However, according to Microsoft, the too aims at helping employers monitor workers to boost organizational productivity.
The company filed a patent that describes a system for deriving and estimating “overall quality scores ” for meetings through data such as facial expression, body language, time of day, room temperature, and the number of attendees. The tool employs sensors, cameras, and software solutions in determining how much one contributes to a meeting compared to carrying other tasks such as checking mail, browsing the internet, and texting. This will help the meeting organize in determining where they will hold a high-quality meeting, and the system flags possible challenges with recommended solutions when setting up a meeting.
The new feature helps in scheduling meetings
Microsoft launched the feature late last month, and the tool offers employer data to understand how employees are adopting different forms of technology. The patent filed read is part that since there is a lack of computerized scheduling systems in the real world, employers may not be aware that they are trying to schedule a non-optimal meeting. Therefore the feature will help in scheduling in-person and virtual meetings.
In its documents, Microsoft explains that the “Productivity Score” provides metrics that will help one see how employees use Microsoft 365 suite in communication, collaboration, and working across different platforms. At the same time, it lets employers know how their digital transformation is fairing among employees. But Christl criticizes the feature saying that it offers employers individual information like how many emails they have sent, Teams channels, and used chats.