Can my boss spy on me via Microsoft Teams?

30-second overview:

Microsoft Teams is a great productivity tools, but can your activity on Teams be monitored by your employer?

Timewatch develops apps for Teams ( & Outlook) and has first-hand experience in what Teams data can be accessed. We often get asked who can see what, and in this article, we answer some of these common questions:

  • Is my Teams data visible to my company?
  • Is my Teams data accessible by Microsoft?
  • Can my Teams chats, calls and meetings be monitored?
  • Can I hide my data from my employer?
  • Can I hide my data from Microsoft?
  • Can my Teams meetings be used in time tracking?(Yes! Learn how)
  • Can my Teams calls be used in time tracking?(Yes! Learn how)

What Microsoft Teams data can your employer access?

Let’s cut to the chase: Everything you do in Microsoft Teams can be visible to your boss. To do so, an employer would need to write or buy a tool to access the data in Microsoft Teams. We know this because we’ve created Teams apps to collect this data to save people time in time tracking and timesheets – but only if users request this to be done. So, what data can bosses have access to:

  • All one-on-one chats, group chats, and meeting chats as well as anything you have deleted
  • All of the meetings you have created or joined, along with the subject, date and time, attendees and duration
  • All of the things you create or delete such as Channels, Teams
  • The times and dates that you have logged in and logged out of Teams and the IP address from which you did so, the device you connected with and its operation system
  • All of the apps you use inside Teams
  • Any meetings you recorded – including the recordings
  • All files that you create or attach in Teams
  • The type and model number of any headset you use
  • A “productivity” score created by Microsoft made up of eight areas including communications, meetings, collaboration, teamwork, mobility, network connectivity, Microsoft apps health and endpoint analytics. Scored out of 800, it uses data from Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Yammer and Skype to show a slew of information such as the number of emails sent, chats made, comments and documents shared with groups, meetings attended, usage of apps, and even if you turn on web cams in meetings. The data is misleading as it is really a score of how people use Microsoft tools rather than how productive an employee actually is. We mention this as this metric could be misunderstood, misquoted and misused

What data can Microsoft Teams access?

Microsoft says it tracks three types of data including: error reporting data, census, and usage data. It claims it does so for usage and support reasons.

  • Error reporting
    This is exactly what it sounds like and includes the feedback that users provide as well as call quality and call issues feedback. That data is also used to track errors and monitor and improve system performance.
  • Census data
    This is information about people’s use of Teams, information about your device type, operating system, language, and related areas of interest. You can see why this might be valuable data.
  • Usage
    is the number of calls made by a user, meetings attended, and messages sent.

But what about Microsoft Teams privacy and security?

As an international corporation, Microsoft has to protect your data and privacy. It’s the law. Microsoft make many commitments to you and your employer to:

  • Never harvest your data and use it for any purpose other than the aforementioned error reporting, census and usage purposes
  • Never use your data for advertising
  • Never share your data with third parties
  • Be compliant with privacy rules including the EU GDPR law
  • Erase all data when your organization’s subscription is canceled

Can Microsoft Teams chats, calls and meetings be monitored?

There are security and privacy settings in Teams that allow a meeting organizer to control who can attend the meeting. People from outside your organization must be invited and when they join the meeting they are held in a virtual “lobby” until they are admitted to the meeting. At that point everyone in the meeting has access to all verbal, chat, video and documents that are shared.

All meetings and calls can be recorded and transcripts can be taken and shared. Activating recordings and transcripts can be done by the meeting organizers but it can also be done behind the scenes by your company by buying or writing a Teams app to do this. (Timewatch does not do this but we can confirm that it is possible for this to be done).

The short answer is that Teams meetings can be monitored, recorded, transcripts recorded, documents and chat recorded by internal people such as those included in calls, meetings, chat, or by an employer.

External parties cannot access Teams without your or your employer’s consent, however this does not rule out the possibility of vulnerabilities being exploited by hackers. At a hackathon in 2021 a vulnerability was found in Teams by “ethical hackers” who waited until any vulnerabilities are patched before publishing any details. Those hackers won $200,000 for their find.

Can my employer listen in on my calls?

Yes and no. Technically, only people included in the call can hear the call live but as we’ve previously outlined, your employer could record the call or keep a transcript. It can actually be quite beneficial to record calls as these may be needed at a future date or for training purposes.

Can I hide my data from my employer?

No. If they want to, your employer can access your chat, chat images, and attachments, call and meeting logs, and record calls and meetings. Again, this can be quite beneficial, for example to use this data to help you in managing your schedule, your to-do list, tracking time, and help the business in keeping track of discussions, shared data etc. If you have concerns over privacy, use Teams for work related activities and use something different for personal communications, chat, video calls.

Can I hide my data from Microsoft?

There are some things you can do to protect your privacy. Turn on privacy settings, ask your organization to use multi-factor two stage authentication on your account, and set up private channels but ultimately your organization can still implement or create an app to record chat, meetings, and calls.

Can access to Teams data be helpful for anyone besides a spy?

Absolutely. Teams does have a wealth of information that can be very helpful to your employers and to you. This is actually how and why Timewatch knows what data is accessible in Teams. We develop apps to utilize this information and save employees time. For example:

  • Meetings
    Our calendar planner and employee scheduling software Whitespace ® and Time&Space ® sync items scheduled for you within our system with your Teams system to set up the appointment in your calendar. This can create a Teams meeting in other attendees calendars without the need to go through the Outlook Meeting Invite process.
  • Adding customer or project information to meetings
    Often people have meetings that relate to customers, projects, tasks, types of work or require other information associated with that appointment. Our systems allow additional fields to be added to Teams (and Outlook) meetings and appointments, and then used in scheduling, reporting, time tracking and project billing.
  • Using Teams calls and meetings in time tracking
    Users that use timesheets or time tracking often find they need to look back in their calendar or try to remember what meetings they had or what they were doing earlier in the week. At the user’s request, their timesheet can be prefilled with their teams meetings and teams calls – including details of who their call was with. People tell us that they are amazed how many calls they would otherwise overlook, how much time this saves them and how much more accurate their timesheet is.

Can Teams meetings be used in time tracking?

Yes, our timesheet systems automatically prefill peoples timesheet with their meetings, which they can add to their timesheet at a click.

Can Teams calls be used in time tracking?

Yes, our timesheet systems automatically prefills peoples’ timesheet with their Teams calls, which they can either add to their timesheet, or ignore.

Want to Learn More?

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us via chat, or book a call with a product specialist who can show you the system in operation.

Speak with a specialist

Learn more about Teams Security, or using Teams in time tracking<./p>

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