Is Microsoft Teams the Next Great Spyware?

Microsoft Teams is one of the primary corporate communications platforms, but recent information suggests it collects disturbing amounts of information....
Is Microsoft Teams the Next Great Spyware?
Written by Matt Milano
  • Microsoft Teams is one of the primary corporate communications platforms, but recent information suggests it collects disturbing amounts of information.

    Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams has experienced meteoric growth, surpassing rival Slack in the corporate messaging market. The company has continued to add features and abilities, making Teams a full-featured platform. As such, the product is increasingly important to Microsoft.

    In March 2020, CEO Satya Nadella said Teams had “become critical infrastructure for people who are doing remote work.” Similarly, Nadella told The Financial Times that he sees Teams being as big and important as the web browser.

    ZDNet’s Chris Matyszczyk decided to take a look at the information Teams collects and reported his “head is spinning” after what he found. Per Microsoft’s own documentation, the company collects the following information:

    Microsoft Teams Data Collection

    Microsoft Teams Data Collection

    As Matyszczyk points out, employees have little say in the data collection, a point confirmed by Microsoft. When he reached out to the company, a spokesperson told Matyszczyk:

    At Microsoft, we believe that data-driven insights are crucial to empowering people and organizations to achieve more.

    The spokesperson reiterated the company’s commitment to privacy, but made it clear the Teams administrator is the one that has all the control:

    We also believe that privacy is a human right, and we’re deeply committed to the privacy of every person who uses our products. Only the global administrator has rights to the analytics and reporting experience, which provides insights into the ways in which the organization is using Microsoft Teams, not the message content itself.

    In many ways, it’s easy to see why Microsoft has built such extensive data collection into Teams. The company is battling Slack for dominance of the corporate messaging market, and is facing further competition from up-and-coming rivals. Given Nadella’s prediction about the important of the platform, Microsoft clearly wants to provide every advantage it can to companies who use its product over competitors. One big advantage is a treasure trove of data that can give insight into how a company’s workers, especially remote workers, are doing their job.

    At the same time, there’s no denying that many companies have gone to extreme measures to monitor their remote employees, measures that have even been labeled “spying.” If Microsoft isn’t careful, it could find itself facing backlash for making it that much easier to spy on workers.

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