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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.

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We learned that 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. 

These monitoring tools, like Microsoft Analytics, use our personal data – and employers risk violating our privacy rights under GDPR when it is used to monitor us.

Keeping people safe during COVID-19 and helping more workers work at home should not be code for an expansion of surveillance software

It could also lead to poor management decisions. How many emails you have sent isn’t a good indicator of how well you’re working, for example, and Microsoft’s algorithms won’t work for those who use non-Microsoft software or have different working patterns.

IT teams may legitimately find the aggregated form of this information useful, for example to stop hackers, but the use of individual data is not necessary for this.

We need limits on surveillance now. At the very least Microsoft must limit this feature so employers only have access to aggregated and anonymised data. And in the longer term they should involve workers’ voices and those of privacy experts in designing the software that replaces this.

Sign the petition asking for employers to consult workers before any monitoring software is used

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