Information barriers

Overview

Microsoft cloud services include powerful communication and collaboration capabilities. But suppose that you want to restrict communications between two groups to avoid a conflict of interest from occurring in your organization. Or, perhaps you want to restrict communications between certain people inside your organization in order to safeguard internal information. Microsoft 365 enables communication and collaboration across groups and organizations, so is there a way to restrict communications among specific groups of users when necessary? With information barriers, you can!

Information barriers are rolling out now, beginning with Microsoft Teams. Assuming your subscription includes information barriers, a compliance administrator or information barriers administrator can define policies to allow or prevent communications between groups of users in Microsoft Teams. Information barrier policies can be used for situations like these:

  • A day trader cannot call someone on the marketing team
  • Finance personnel working on confidential company information cannot receive calls from certain groups within their organization
  • An internal team with trade secret material cannot call or chat online with people in certain groups within their organization
  • A research team can only call or chat online with a product development team

For all of these example scenarios (and more), information barrier policies can be defined to prevent or allow communications in Microsoft Teams. Such policies can prevent people from calling or chatting with those they shouldn't, or enable people to communicate only with specific groups in Microsoft Teams. With information barrier policies in effect, whenever users who are covered by those policies attempt to communicate with others in Microsoft Teams, checks are done to prevent (or allow) communication (as defined by information barrier policies). To learn more about the user experience with information barriers, see information barriers in Microsoft Teams.

Important

Currently, information barriers do not apply to email communications or to file sharing through SharePoint Online or OneDrive. In addition, information barriers are independent from compliance boundaries.

Before you define and apply information barrier policies, make sure your organization does not have Exchange address book policies in effect. (Information barriers are based on address book policies.)

What happens with information barriers

When information barrier policies are in place, people who should not communicate with other specific users won't be able to find, select, chat, or call those users. With information barriers, checks are in place to prevent unauthorized communication.

Initially, information barriers apply to Microsoft Teams chats and channels only. In Microsoft Teams, information barrier policies determine and prevent the following kinds of unauthorized communications:

  • Searching for a user
  • Adding a member to a team
  • Starting a chat session with someone
  • Starting a group chat
  • Inviting someone to join a meeting
  • Sharing a screen
  • Placing a call

If the people involved are included in an information barrier policy to prevent the activity, they will not be able to proceed. In addition, potentially, everyone included in an information barrier policy can be blocked from communicating with others in Microsoft Teams. When people affected by information barrier policies are part of the same team or group chat, they might be removed from those chat sessions and further communication with the group might not be allowed.

To learn more about the user experience with information barriers, see information barriers in Microsoft Teams.

Required licenses and permissions

Information barriers are rolling out now, and are included in subscriptions, such as:

  • Microsoft 365 E5
  • Office 365 E5
  • Office 365 Advanced Compliance
  • Microsoft 365 E5 Information Protection and Compliance

For more details, see Compliance Solutions.

To define or edit information barrier policies, you must be assigned one of the following roles:

  • Microsoft 365 global administrator
  • Office 365 global administrator
  • Compliance administrator
  • IB Compliance Management (this is a new role!)

(To learn more about roles and permissions, see Permissions in the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center.)

You must be familiar with PowerShell cmdlets in order to define, validate, or edit information barrier policies. Although we provide several examples of PowerShell cmdlets in the how-to article, you'll need to know additional details, such as parameters, for your organization.

Next steps