Microsoft has announced the availability of information barriers for Teams via Office 365 with SharePoint next set to benefit from the feature.
Organisations, often in the finance sector, need the ability to block or limit communication between particular groups. Companies are required by law to make safe, insider information and protect against unethical trading taking place making informational barriers an ideal – and highly necessary – solution.
FINRA (The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) offers guidance on these circumstances stating:
“A member’s written policies and procedures must limit the supervision and control of debt research analysts to persons not engaged in investment banking, sales and trading or principal trading activities.
“In addition, the policies and procedures further must establish information barriers or other institutional safeguards reasonably designed to ensure that debt research analysts are insulated from the review, pressure or oversight by persons engaged in investment banking services, principal trading or sales and trading activities or others who might be biased in their judgment or supervision.”
New terminology for a new feature
Now referred to as informational barriers or ethical walls, they were commonly known as Chinese walls in previous years but the term is now deemed culturally insensitive, incorrect and outdated.
Microsoft has stated these ethical walls will be offered with Microsoft Teams first party functionality through a configuration within Office 365. While Teams is the first service to contain these settings, others will continue in its footsteps; the collaborative platform SharePoint will support this effective feature next.
The functionality of ethical walls
The policies which make decisions on when the information barriers are in effect will be conducted using lightweight commands within Powershell via the Security and Compliance Centre for Microsoft 365.
These barriers will also have the capability to block users looking up people outside of their given group. If communication is attempted with an individual not cleared by policy for contact, they will not show in the user’s options for selection.
Barriers will be checked in a number of different circumstances including: when a team acquires new members, when two plus users share a single screen, when a phone call is placed in Teams by a user, and when users are invited to take part in a meeting.
The feature is a component of the Advanced Compliance of Microsoft 365. In preview, the capability for creating ethical walls policies is available to all customers. Yet when general availability of the feature is announced, only users possessing appropriate licences will benefit from its operation. The available licencing levels afforded the feature include, Microsoft 365 E5 Compliance, Microsoft 365 E5, Office 365 E5 and Office 365 Advanced Compliance.
If your firm uses collaborative platforms, such as Teams or SharePoint, and requires advice regarding limits on communication where sensitive material is concerned you can contact us here at WM Reply. As specialists in SharePoint and other Microsoft solutions we are well equipped to inform and assist with the individual needs of your organisation.