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To: Microsoft

Microsoft: Protect workers’ privacy in Office 365

Microsoft have responded to the public outcry over their worker Productivity Score feature by announcing they are removing the parts that allowed managers to see individual workers’ data in Office 365, and only keeping the averaged, anonymous data.

Disable the individual worker monitoring features available in Microsoft Office 365, and use aggregate data only. Work with workers and their unions to ensure tools are developed in a responsible and legally compliant way.

Why is this important?

Over the last few months, we've been raising concerns about worker surveillance technology and how it is on the rise – often without workers being aware. This week, we got the clearest indication yet that it is going mainstream.

We learned that the Productivity Score feature in Microsoft’s Office 365 allows employers to monitor their staff: looking at how many emails you have sent, how many meetings you've attended and how often you interact with colleagues on instant messaging.

This kind of surveillance is an intrusion on our privacy and is deeply troubling for productivity, with workers feeling they are being watched, and others able to game the system. With many people working from home, at least some of the time, this is putting monitoring into our homes, blurring the line between our work and private lives.

Workers need to be consulted when new technology is used. We need guarantees about what monitoring is going on, and how.

We are calling on employers to consult workers before any monitoring software is used (this is the law in our view) and for Microsoft to disable this feature by default – and we need your help

Category


Reasons for signing

  • Information is power, but for whom ?
  • Microsoft is a very poor company: a mediocre monopolist - to be very polite. And there's more that we can do. 1) union members using MS at home can dump it for Linux - Linux Mint is a good intro - search for it on the web - and please not with google - try duck duck go. 2) individual unions can get MS software out and replace it with Linux systems.
  • I don't wish to have my every move monitored, Im happy with my work ethic and certainly earn my money.

Updates

2020-12-08 12:15:05 +0000

Petition is successful with 5,383 signatures

2020-12-08 12:14:31 +0000

Thanks to everyone who signed our petition. We have some good news to bring you.

Microsoft have responded to the public outcry over their worker Productivity Score feature by announcing they are removing the parts that allowed managers to see individual workers’ data in Office 365, and only keeping the averaged, anonymous data. This is a welcome change of heart from Microsoft and shows public pressure works.

However, this is part of a much wider issue, and we still have concerns. Demand from employers for surveillance technology has multiplied during the pandemic and the Office 365 example is just the most mainstream instance of employers abusing workers’ rights under the false pretence of productivity. This is something that is only going to get bigger.

In the meantime, find out what your rights are on workplace monitoring and surveillance with our new blog https://prospect.org.uk/news/workplace-digital-monitoring-and-surveillance-what-are-my-rights

2020-12-03 17:20:57 +0000

5,000 signatures reached

2020-12-03 17:14:44 +0000

Good news! It looks like Microsoft have shifted their position in response to the outcry around this.

Thanks to everyone who’s joined us to put pressure on – it really looks to be paying off!

We are just checking the detail of what they’ve announced and will be getting back to everyone shortly.

2020-12-02 16:18:57 +0000

Prospect's Research Director Andrew Pakes has written more about this case in a guest post for the blog Left Foot Forward:
https://leftfootforward.org/2020/12/productivity-in-a-pandemic-how-employers-are-gearing-up-to-spy-on-workers/

As Andrew says: "Data is the new frontline of workers’ rights. We need to get serious about these risks now and take a stand. The risks are that we are sleepwalking into a new age of surveillance where dispersed workers are monitored, measured and checked."

2020-11-27 12:26:06 +0000

1,000 signatures reached

2020-11-27 11:34:03 +0000

500 signatures reached

2020-11-27 11:15:52 +0000

100 signatures reached

2020-11-27 11:13:39 +0000

50 signatures reached

2020-11-27 11:12:15 +0000

25 signatures reached

2020-11-27 09:27:44 +0000

10 signatures reached

2020-11-26 16:49:41 +0000

You can read more about this at Alex Hern's article in the Guardian today: "Microsoft productivity score feature criticised as workplace surveillance" https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/nov/26/microsoft-productivity-score-feature-criticised-workplace-surveillance