Understanding privacy in Delve

Understanding privacy in Delve header image

Over the past few days more and more tenants got their Delve experience activated and so the first findings are shared on the web. As part of the Office 365 User Group in the Netherlands there was a discussion on our Yammer network on the what and how of Delve and what consequences might be in an organization. One of the questions that came up was the possibility to exclude content from Delve, based on the following scenario:

“I have a temporary contract, something that might not be prolonged if they find out I have trending information about maternity leave or content related to that subject”.

As Delve is using the Office Graph from Search to serve each user with the relevant content there are a few options, however excluding content is not always the answer. First of all Delve and the Office Graph for that matter are security trimmed, so users will never see content they are not allowed to if proper security is in place. For instance even if a manager has financial content trending around them, no other users will see that if they do not have permissions to that data, or the location that data resides in.

Another option is that, as Delve uses a search query, you can always exclude a library from the search index, that way it will no longer show up in the search results (and not in Delve). However excluding a library from the search is a drastic step that in most cases would not be needed, as it will also exclude the content from any other search results. 

So as Delve is using the Office Graph to provide the content, it also uses the so called actions and edges that are provided by the Office Graph. Edges are populated by working with the content, and represent a relation between a user and that content. Edges can represent a single action (viewed) or multiple actions (trending). However there is some privacy in place on these edges well. As you can see on MSDN: Using GQL with the SharePoint Online Search REST API to query Office graph, there are several actions available but not all of them are made public, and these actions make up the edges that you can use. The difference between public and private actions is that they will not show up if they are private and you are requesting them for someone else. So for instance, the viewed action will only be visible for you as a user, and it is not possible to retrieve the viewed documents for another actor.

That means that your manager will never see that you have maternity leave content viewed by you. Looking at the publicly available data Delve does not expose anything that is not already public. Still there might be the case that the maternity leave content is trending in a team, but for that to happen the whole team should be working with that maternity leave content.

If you would visit a Delve profile page you will most likely see something similar as below. An overview of documents either modified or trending around that specific user. As the trending around property is based on the team the person is part of, a document trending around someone will only be marked as such if there are multiple views.

Delve Trending Around

So while Delve does provide insights in what a team is working on by providing a feed with content trending around a team, and one could even write queries for content trending around a topic, it will is not directly possible for a manager to find out if a certain topic is trending around a person after he or she viewed specific content. Therefor it would be safe to say that Delve will help you finding more relevant content by making it easier to identify trends, it does not necessarily provide a new tool to monitor your online behavior.

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