Teams

Teams

Microsoft
Wi-Fi

Review date: Sept. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Somewhat creepy

Teams, the business-focused service from Microsoft that integrates with its popular Office365 services, saw a surge of use when the pandemic hit and its user base has grown to more than 250 million users in 2021. Similar to Zoom, Teams allows for video chats between hundreds – even thousands – of people and lets users join a call with just a meeting link, no app installation needed. Teams also offers Slack-like features, letting users instant message colleagues. The Teams vs Slack vs Zoom questions seems to be one of the big questions of 2021, at least according to the approximately eight gazillion articles written on the topic this year. Most users probably don’t have a choice though, they just go with what their place of work gives them.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

When it comes to Teams, we find some good and some bad. Microsoft has had some bumps this year when it comes to security, most notably a major hack that left their Microsoft Exchange email service vulnerable and exploited. That hack didn’t affect Teams, but coupled with a few other incidents like in December, 2019 when 250 million internal customer service and support logs were exposed online, and Microsoft’s security feels a little uncertain. Microsoft did pay 341 researchers millions of dollars in a year for reporting security vulnerabilities, so their bug bounty project is working. That is good. Teams doesn’t use stronger end-to-end encryption for their video calls, but it does use encryption in transit and at rest, which is OK. Microsoft does collect a fair amount of data on users, and says it uses that data for things like targeted ads as well as sharing it with third-parties like Facebook, Verizon, and combining its data with data from third parties such as data brokers. None of this is great. One good thing we did like about Teams that gives it a leg up over Slack, is Teams for use in your personal life has a feature to allow users to block a contact. This is a great feature for users experiencing harassment or abuse. Note, this feature only works in Teams for personal use; it is not available for Teams through a work or school account. Still, Slack doesn’t have any block feature at all.

mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: N/A

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

Teams is part of Microsoft 365 suite, so the latter account is required. Teams also offers guest accounts that expire after 24 hours.

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Microsoft uses data, among other aims, to advertise and market to you, which includes sending promotional communications, targeting advertising, and presenting you with offers. It does use your data to target you with advertising within Microsoft web properties. It also allows numerous partners like Verizon and Facebook, to collect data about your online activity for advertising purposes, and to place their own ads. Microsoft also extensively combines its data with third parties, such as data brokers for demographic data, service providers that help determine your device’s location, marketing partners, third parties that deliver experiences through Microsoft products, and publicly-available sources, such as open government databases.

How can you control your data?

Microsoft Teams claims to retain your data for the minimum amount of time necessary to deliver the service. If a user (or an administrator on the user's behalf) deletes the data, Microsoft will ensure that all copies of the personal data are deleted within 30 days. If a company terminates service with Microsoft, corresponding personal data will all be deleted between 90 and 180 days of service termination.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

On one hand, Microsoft is making a considerate effort to improve its security. The company revealed that it paid 341 researchers a total of $13.6 million in bounties in 2020. However, this did not help against the March 2021 hack of Microsoft 365, that exploited bugs in the product. At least 30,000 U.S. organizations were reported to be affected.

Can this product be used offline?

Not Applicable

User-friendly privacy information?

No

It is difficult to extract Teams-specific information from the general Microsoft policy.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

No

Encryption

Yes

Microsoft Teams has encryption in transit and at rest, by default. Right now, there is no feature of end-to-end encryption. Microsoft says that Teams will soon support an option to use end-to-end encryption only for 1-to-1 Teams audio calls. The feature will have to be turned on by the IT department in an organization - not by users themselves.

Strong password

Yes

For full functionality, the app requires a registered Microsoft account. Most accounts are secured with a password, although users can choose to use the Microsoft Authenticator phone app to sign in without a password. Passwords must have at least 8 characters and contain at least two of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Security updates

Yes

Microsoft pushes regular security updates to its communication products.

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Microsoft has a bug bounty program for security vulnerabilities.

Privacy policy

Yes

Rather complicated but holistic privacy policy. No separate policy for Teams.

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

AI is used for several features, like Together Mode, AffectiveSpotlight (demo), etc. Moreover, Microsoft offers Microsoft Cognitive Services - image and facial recognition services that companies can use to develop their own AI-driven tools.In February 2021, Microsoft presented a new AI bot AffectiveSpotlight that uses neural networks to check what meeting participants are most engaged based on their facial expressions. So, once it goes fully into features, better turn your face on. : )

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

No

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Can’t Determine


News

Microsoft Security Shocker As 250 Million Customer Records Exposed Online
Forbes
A new report reveals that 250 million Microsoft customer records, spanning 14 years, have been exposed online without password protection.
How to Look Like a Potato in a Microsoft Teams Video Conference
How-To Geek
By now, you’ve probably seen the viral tweet about the woman who turned herself into a potato during a Teams meeting and couldn’t turn the filter off again. Here’s how you can make yourself a potato in your next meeting using Snap Camera.
Rethinking Zoom? How WebEx, Teams, and Google Meet and Duo Compare on Privacy and Security
Inc.
If you're among the many looking for a new video conferencing tool after adding "zoombombing" to your vocabulary, you're in luck. While a one-size-fits-all solution doesn't exist, there are many other options with proven security features. Here's a roundup of some of Zoom's competitors and their privacy and security features.
Thousands of Microsoft Customers May Have Been Victims of Hack Tied to China
NY Times
The hackers started their attack in January but escalated their efforts in recent weeks, security experts say. Business and government agencies were affected.
Microsoft Teams: Here's when your calls will get end-to-end encryption
Tech Republic
Microsoft Teams is getting another round of updates, including the addition of fully encrypted voice calls for desktop and mobile users. From July, one-to-one voice over IP (VoIP) calls on Teams will be secured with end-to-end encryption, offering further privacy to ad hoc conversations held over the app.
How To Block A Contact
Microsoft
In Teams for your personal life, you have the option to block a contact, if necessary.

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