Microsoft Lync lets employers spy on employees NSA-style

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Microsoft’s Lync communications platform collects a surprising amount of sensitive, analyzable data about its users, making employers who use Lync privy to some very personal information about their employees.

Software developer Event Zero told Microsoft’s Lync 2014 conference that by using call data collected by the platform, companies could analyze information to the point of discovering intimate personal details about employees’ lives, like which are dating one another, or who in the company may be looking for another job.

Whether such surveillance was ethical or legal, the company couldn’t say.

“You can become your own mini-NSA,” Event Zero C.E.O. David Tucker said. “Just make sure it doesn’t end up on WikiLeaks.”

“From a reporting perspective, Lync does this no differently than any other enterprise communications system,” Lync senior product marketing manager Barry Castle told NetworkWorld in answer to a question about the potential for the data to be abused.

According to Microsoft, collecting the data has legitimate company purposes like tracking productivity, accounting and troubleshooting.

Event Zero demonstrated how easy it was to sort the data into a usable fashion with Windows PowerShell and Excel, exporting it in multiple graphical styles including web-based HTML.

With various rules governing the use of personal employee data by states, localities and even individual companies’ human resources departments, Event Zero warned conference attendees to look up the rules for where they are before they start mining employees’ telephone data.

Secret National Security Agency surveillance programs leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden last year revealed the mass collection of Americans’ landline telephone data and a large percentage of wireless phone data, all of which is stored in bulk. After the NSA identifies a suspect, it can then seek a warrant to tap all of the collected information on a single individual, including the data on other callers they contacted in order to form a link to known or suspected terrorists.

Event Zero explained information collected by Lync could be used in much the same way for businesses to establish profitable links between employees and possible clients, investors, donors or consumers.

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