Technology

Microsoft tool watches staff and awards staff ‘productivity scores’

Microsoft has launched a new feature that allows employers to track the day-to-day activities of workers on an individual level.

The tech giant describes its Productivity Score tool as “a new service that can help accelerate your digital transformation by providing insights into how your organisation works”, but privacy advocates warn it could herald a new era of workplace surveillance.

Enabling the tool allows employers to analyse the activities and performance of individual workers, revealing metrics like how many times they send emails or use the chat function.

It can even identify people who are not using their cameras during video conference meetings, as well as the amount of time people are spending online.

Each employee is ranked against their peers in a league table accessible to admins, allowing employers to see which workers are not scoring highly.

“Productivity Score is a tool that gives [employers] one place for end-to-end visibility,” Microsoft explained in a recent promotional video.

“It includes insights, peer benchmarks, and actions they can take to help the people in their organisation be more productive. Pretty exciting stuff.”

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The Productivity Score function is enabled by default, meaning companies would need to actively opt out if they were concerned about protecting the privacy of employees.

“This normalises extensive workplace surveillance in a way not seen before,” said data researcher Wolfie Christl.

“This is so problematic at many levels… Not leas, Microsoft gets the power to define highly arbitrary metrics that will potentially affect the daily lives of millions of employees and even shape how organisations function.”

EU data protection laws mean the feature may be unlawful in many countries, though such privacy protections are more lax outside of Europe. Microsoft has been contacted for comment.

Mr Christl notes that Productivity Score is part of a wider trend of workplace surveillance that has seeped upwards from techniques used in low-paid jobs to maximise production.

“Employers are increasingly exploiting metadata logged by software and devices for performance analytics and algorithmic control,” he said.

“Microsoft is providing the tools for it. Practices we know from software development – and factories and call centres – are expanded to all white-collar work.” 

Source:

www.independent.co.uk

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