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Microsoft is speeding up the process of monitoring employee communication

Microsoft Teams Android Install Store
Microsoft Teams Android Install Store (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is speeding up the process for reviewing inappropriate messages within Microsoft 365.
  • It currently takes up to 24 hours to move from detection to investigation, but that time will be cut down to less than one hour.
  • Organizations can monitor communication through Microsoft's apps and services to watch for criminal behavior, bullying, or any messages that are deemed inappropriate.

Microsoft is working to improve the turnaround time of investigations. Messages sent through Teams, Yammer, email, and third-party communications within an organization can be monitored, and custom policies can be put in place to determine the types of messages that may be inappropriate. Messages that get flagged by the system can then be looked at by reviewers.

The process of moving from detection to investigation currently takes up to 24 hours, but that time will be cut down to just one hour or less in the near future.

The change is outlined on the Microsoft 365 roadmap (opens in new tab). "This feature will reduce the detection to investigation time to under an hour, allowing your organization to respond to communication compliance alerts promptly," reads the entry (via TechRadar).

Microsoft is set to deliver speedier investigations for messages by April 2022, but that isn't a firm date.

Organizations can monitor messages for a variety of reasons, such as keeping an eye out for bullying or harassment. Content can also be scanned for security reasons, like watching for attackers that can try to coax data from employees. Companies can enforce regulatory guidelines using communication compliance in Microsoft 365 as well.

A support document from Microsoft (opens in new tab) outlines use cases of community compliance and the capabilities of the feature.

The concept of monitoring employee communication is controversial and considered an invasion of privacy by some. It is, however, relatively common in modern workplaces, especially as hybrid and remote work become more common.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).

15 Comments
  • Isn't this the kind of thing that Americans hate?
  • Constitution applies to government. You work at the privilege of your employer.
  • Americans can hate something that is legal. Sin Ogaris didn't claim it was unconstitutional.
  • Ironically, Americans also like their extremely flexible labor market. That means when the job market is hot, like it is now, it's really, really hot. (Companies aren't afraid to hire plenty as they're not scared of having to keep you when they don't want you.) But the other side of that is, if your company wants to let you go, you basically have no recourse. If you so much as make an ass of yourself at work (say, in an email to a co-worker or a client or even a supplier) there's no rule that says you can't get fired for cause, though your union may have a say. (Speaking of unions, the private sector unionization rate in the US last time I checked was south of 7 percent.)
  • I'm always shocked at the things people say when they think nobody can see or hear what they're saying. I'm also equally shocked that so few people understand that work provided tools aren't private, even if they were developed with security and privacy in mind. I'm glad to see this progress, but I think it also underscores how foolish Microsoft is being by trying to market both Teams for Personal Use as a viable personal messaging/collaboration service and Teams (enterprise) as a tool that allows collaboration with company oversight. Teams for Personal Use needs to be renamed to Skype and just replace the existing Skype clients to help consumers distinguish it from its corporate-focused sibling.
  • Totally agree with your comment. It should renamed Skype, the personal side. Teams just doesn't sound like a name that should be for personal use. The other option, they could just call it Bing messaging.
  • If they want to highlight the potentially collaborative nature, families, social/sports organizations, and don't want to perpetuate Skype, maybe they could call it Group-Me.
  • The problem with Teams personal is the fact it won’t work without your phone number.
    Your phone number is now your human “primary key”
    Want a new Google account? Can’t make one without a phone number. We really need to resist this. Or be tracked and controlled
  • Given we deal with PHI/PII, I wonder if this tool can be set up to monitor for that kind of communication. Given Teams is end-to-end encrypted, we regularly use it to share personal information when researching systems issues because it is easier than using encrypted emails (because of how locked down those emails get). On the one hand, I'd hate for the system to flag every occurrence because of the aforementioned use case but at the same time, I can see how the system can be used for abuse. Honestly, staff being jerks to one another will get back to me without Microsoft having to scan their messages to tell me.
  • Probably. Some of that is clearly already possible in Exchange. Anything that looks remotely like a phone number or Social Security number gets flagged here. PII.
  • You can totally set those policies up in M365. We have done a bunch. If your company is properly licensed you have access to AIP (Azure Information Protection). We even warn people that they are about to send things that may be sensitive. Depending on the type of info we even require the user to click that they acknowledge the warning. It does require a fair bit of effort to setup and keep it working. Out of the box it will likely generate a LOT of false positives.
  • Yea, there's no way this kind of technology could be used inappropriately by certain governments.
  • Of course it could, if you are on a government network, or you let the government set up your internal flags. Not like it can't already happen.
  • As has been mentioned elsewhere in the comments, you have no right to privacy in work-platform communications. This has nothing to do with the government; it's about communications within institutions. If you harass fellow employees or even just generally make an ass of yourself in a way that management thinks hurts their bottom line, you can be fired. This is news to no one with a job.
  • "Organizations can monitor messages for a variety of reasons ..." At a leading-edge company like Microsoft and many of its customers, IP theft may be one concern. The bottom line is, at least in the US and I imagine in other countries, you don't have an expectation of privacy in your work-related communications. And if there's a lawsuit or a criminal investigation related to work, even your private emails may become evidence. Remember Hillary?