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Can Microsoft Teams chat be monitored?

The quick answer is yes -- IT administrators can monitor employees' messages in Microsoft Teams. But organizations need the proper license plans and policies in place.

Business collaboration tools have experienced tremendous growth with the rise of remote and hybrid work. Collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, are an effective way to work on projects while co-workers are physically separated.

However, now that Teams has become a major part of work life, IT departments are realizing, in some cases, they may want to monitor collaboration features, like chat. Monitoring conversations is especially important for organizations that must adhere to regulatory compliance rules.

Microsoft's communication compliance functionality is baked into Microsoft 365 and provides IT with chat monitoring policies that reinforce risk management. So, can Microsoft Teams chat be monitored? Yes, but let's dig deeper. In this step-by-step guide, IT administrators can learn how to start monitoring Teams chat within their organizations.

1. Verify you have the right Microsoft 365 license

If you want to monitor Teams chat, first understand that not all Microsoft 365 plans offer communication compliance as a feature, nor does Microsoft offer communications compliance as a standalone subscription. IT departments that use Basic, Standard or Premium licenses must upgrade to the E5 license plan or the E3 license plan with an E5 Compliance add-on to receive the ability to monitor and log chats.

2. Enable communication compliance

Before any chat monitoring can be done, an administrator who is assigned as a communication compliance administrator must first enable the use of communication compliance features at a global level. Once this step is complete, authorized admins can access all the configuration features that enable monitoring of some or all users.

Administrators who are tasked with monitoring chat communications can be assigned to one of several roles depending on their duties and their need to access chat logs. Some examples of these roles are the following:

  • Communication compliance admin. This role can enable communication compliance, define lower-level compliance administrators and perform the typical read/write/update/delete policy that's necessary to manage chat monitoring.
  • Communication compliance analyst. This role can review created policies and view message metadata but not message content.
  • Communication compliance investigator. This role can view both message metadata and the messages themselves. The investigator can also mark flagged communications so they are added to specific e-discovery.

3. Determine whom to monitor

Communication compliance administrators can monitor the chats and other Teams and email communications of specific employees -- or all employees with the appropriate license assigned to them. Administrators can also place users into specific monitoring groups, which streamlines communications monitoring policy configuration for certain teams or departments that require more granular monitoring rules.

4. Create monitoring policy

Administrators must plan and configure policies to sufficiently monitor each communications compliance group. Microsoft offers policy templates or the ability for administrators to create policy from scratch. A third option is to use a built-in policy wizard that walks administrators through the policy creation process. Regardless of the method used, the purpose of policy creation is to do the following:

  • Place users into monitoring groups.
  • Elect who can review the policy and/or messages that are being monitored.
  • Select what communication channels within Microsoft 365 to monitor.
  • Designate the conditions and keywords that the communication compliance tool should alert on.
  • Choose whether inbound, outbound or internal-only communications should be monitored.

While many more steps and details are required to get communication compliance up and running within an organization, the core steps have been covered here. Once complete, the users and groups created begin monitoring and alerting on compliance violations as policy dictates.

Can your employer view Teams chat history?

Teams chat activity can be tracked in Microsoft 365 admin dashboards, such as the number of Teams groups and private chat messages initiated by a user and the number of replied messages. Admins can anonymize identifiable information in this activity data, such as names and email addresses.

However, a business can view an employee's Teams chat content through an e-discovery investigation. Teams chat activity available through e-discovery includes the following:

  • Chat messages.
  • Edited messages.
  • Microsoft Loop components.
  • Emojis, GIFs and stickers.
  • Chat reactions.
  • Teams channel names.

Andrew Froehlich is founder of InfraMomentum, an enterprise IT research and analyst firm, and president of West Gate Networks, an IT consulting company. He has been involved in enterprise IT for more than 20 years.

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