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Early Microsoft Delve users worry about privacy

Nancy Gohring | Sept. 12, 2014
Just a couple days after Microsoft began rolling out Delve, its new enterprise social offering, some people are worried and confused about potential privacy implications.

Just a couple days after Microsoft began rolling out Delve, its new enterprise social offering, some people are worried and confused about potential privacy implications.

Delve is a new enterprise social product that Microsoft is offering to Office 365 business customers. It shows users personalized information about recent content they've been looking at and content that's trending with co-workers.

On Wednesday, Microsoft hosted a Yammer discussion where anyone could ask questions about Delve and Microsoft employees would respond. While there was definite excitement about the product from many people who participated in the conversation, some comments pointed to a privacy challenge.

Microsoft has been thoughtful about exactly what to surface in Delve but its decisions aren't always clear to users, causing some confusion.

Delve essentially displays to users what Microsoft calls the Office Graph. The Office Graph indexes content like documents and video as well as "signals," which include things like who you email and who you share documents with.

"Every single bit of content captured in the Office Graph is captured with a permission attached," said Cem Aykan, senior product manager for Office Graph and Delve at Microsoft. For instance, documents stored in OneDrive or SharePoint have permissions allowing them to be shared with certain people.

Delve "inherits" those existing permissions, so no document will ever appear to someone who doesn't already have permission to see it, he said.

In addition, Office Graph has a notion of public and private signals.  A private signal is an email or Lync conversation between two people. Delve will never include those signals, he said. Public signals, which include your involvement in a Yammer group or on a SharePoint team, are included in Delve.

"Delve is a window into the Office Graph and it helps you discover and navigate those things," he said.

The trouble is, Delve's equation isn't always clear to users.

For instance, during the Yammer discussion, one user said that he was seeing trending documents that indicated individual co-workers who were looking at the document. Some of those files were HR documents about domestic partner insurance coverage and benefits around psychological assistance. His query drew concerns from other people who noted they wouldn't want co-workers to know that they'd looked up HR policies around maternity leave, especially before disclosing a pregnancy, or about whistle blower protection.

It turns out, that user may not quite understand how Delve displays content. Delve is comprised of "cards," or boxes that contain, for instance, an image of a document plus details like how many people have viewed it and commented on it, as well as tags. It only includes a person's name if that person has edited the document, said Aykan. Editing a document is already data that's displayed in SharePoint so it shouldn't be the kind of detail that would worry a user.

 

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