Microsoft's chilling new update may frighten everyone who thinks they're funny

It was always going to come to something like this. But now, everyone at work may be even more concerned about what they write and say.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

It's not just watching you. It's reacting very quickly.

HJBC -- Shutterstock

Surviving in the corporate world requires adopting difficult skills.

Smiling while seething, for example.

Then there's pretending to focus when you're half asleep, nodding on a Zoom call when you have no idea what's being said, and knowing who to go to when you want to scream and be understood.

There's also another useful skill. Damage control.

You often know when you've said or done something silly, ignorant, or plain offensive. But you believe you have time to fix it before it spirals beyond your pay grade and into an ether whose gases you don't breathe.

Then along comes Microsoft to make that a lot more difficult.

In a new listing on its 365 Roadmap, Microsoft presents a vast dollop of foreboding: "Microsoft 365 compliance center: Communication Compliance. Reduce detection to investigation time from 24 hours to 1 hour."

Compliance. It's a difficult word, one rarely associated with a single positive feeling. But this update brings a whole new squeeze to the concept.

In Microsoft's words: "This feature will reduce the detection to investigation time to under an hour, allowing your organization to respond promptly to policy violations."

Doesn't everyone breach policy at one time or another? And doesn't everyone quickly realize it and enact their personal damage control systems before it's too late?

I'm really sorry I sent that video to the wrong person. Windows 11 is still so confusing to me.

Sadly, Microsoft's newest joy may make reparations impossible. Especially as the Communication Compliance software records not just email, but Teams and other corporate communication tools.

The company explains: "Communication Compliance helps organizations detect explicit code of conduct and regulatory compliance violations, such as harassing or threatening language, sharing of adult content, and inappropriate sharing of sensitive information."

So many qualitative words there. One person's inappropriate is another person's amusing. One person's threatening language can be another person's joke that they accidentally sent on a Reply All email.

Please, I don't disrespect the need for vigilance and self-awareness. Nor do I misunderstand the need for policies and rules.

But imagine if it'll now take just one hour for the corporate gods to descend upon you and intone: "You said what? To whom?"

Won't it exacerbate employees' already hearty paranoia?

With all such tools, judgment and discretion -- on the part of those who control them, that is -- are vital. One can't help fearing though, that the surveillance may, in some hands, be going too far.

Microsoft doesn't explain how it will now reduce the alert time by twenty-three hours. (This joy will have its preview in April.)

Still, one can understand that many companies will immediately leap upon it as a great step forward. In control, that is.

Some might consider that if no one reports allegedly offensive language, it really wasn't offensive. Indeed, Microsoft is simultaneously introducing another update designed to "empower end users to report inappropriate messages in Teams."

Yes, now everyone can report on everyone.

These things can be extremely complex, but an idea might be to monitor the bosses with these updates first.

Just so that the employees can see the software is being scrupulously fair, you understand.

Don't all bosses believe they should set an example?

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