Microsoft’s “productivity score” raises questions

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An employee teleworking. Illustrative photo.
An employee teleworking. Illustrative photo. (THIBAUD VAERMAN / HANS LUCAS)

This is a function that goes wrong. A small function offered to companies with the Office 365 office suite. Entitled “productivity score”, it is an index, from 0 to 800, for each employee, which allows managers to know, for example, what is time spent working on Excel spreadsheets, emails, video conferencing, or even time spent not working. Managers can follow all of this in real time on dashboards.

Microsoft’s Office 365 suite (word processor, calendar, email, etc.) is used in many companies. These tools are not new, they are from last year, but with lockdowns and the spread of teleworking, they are even more important today. Austrian researcher and anti-surveillance activist, Wolfie Christl, was the first to be moved. on Twitter. Associations for the defense of privacy have engaged.

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Note that this tool has nothing to do with webcam surveillance systems or spyware, such as some companies, especially in the United States, to “police” teleworkers. According to Microsoft, the “productivity score” should help executives measure themselves against other companies and also assess any difficulties associated with using these solutions internally for the sake of return on investment. This involves, for example, identifying possible training needs. There are also technical analyzes regarding connection speeds or application startup times.

In a press release, the American firm also explains that the “productivity score” is optional and that its activation is left to the goodwill of IT managers and management. The fact remains that these tools can be misused and mistrust can seem legitimate. This case raises the question of the use of metadata. That is to say secondary data, related to the use of IT tools. In all areas, it can serve the best, as well as the worst.



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