Microsoft's Adding 'Supervisor' Functionality to Monitor Teams Private Chats
Microsoft Teams has many features packed under the hood and when used correctly, creates a robust application that enables collaboration that can improve individual or group productivity. But at the same time, when the tool is incorrectly used, it can have a significant impact on your organization.
In schools, Teams is used differently than in the corporate world – primarily because you have a much younger demographic using the tool and you need to increase the monitoring of the individuals for unapproved activities.
One area that is prone to abuse is the 1:1 chat functionality. As of right now, there is not an easy way to restrict individual users from chatting and with cyber-bullying being a very real concern in today’s society, Teams needs better moderation tools for the education sector.
Coming in May, Microsoft will be rolling out a new ‘Supervised Chat’ option that, as the name suggests, can let a teacher or administrator monitor individual chats – this feature was announced with MC246703.
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When this option becomes available, you will be able to update your messaging policies to enable the feature that requires a supervisor to be present, or at minimum, part of the chat for 1:1 conversations but this isn’t a backdoor way to secretly monitor conversations.
If you enable this feature for your tenant, the way that it works is that it will restrict users from starting new chats unless a supervisor is present. Microsoft says that “when chat supervision is enabled, supervisors aren’t allowed to leave chats and other participants aren’t allowed to remove them ensuring that all chats are properly supervised.”
What this sounds like is that a ‘supervisor’ is going to be added to every chat, effectively making it a group chat, and that you cannot remove that user from the conversation. This will allow the supervisor to monitor the conversation and should help cut down on abuse or other unapproved activities. Based on what we know today, this could cause a bit of chaos if you have a large class with lots of conversations which means it may be a best practice to assign the monitoring role to someone other than the teacher.
There are a couple of important caveats, specifically that when you enable this functionality, it is not retroactive. Meaning, all existing conversations will remain unsupervised and the same goes for existing meeting and channels too.
This is a good step for Teams, especially in the Education segment, where 1:1 conversations need additional oversight. But, I will need to do a deeper dive on the feature once it becomes available to better understand how the feature works and the administrator experience as this has the potential to create quite a bit of noise too.