Microsoft Faces Privacy Complaints Over Its Education Programme

In a recent development, Microsoft has come under scrutiny due to two complaints filed by the privacy advocacy group NOYB (None of Your Business) with the Austrian privacy watchdog. These complaints specifically relate to Microsoft’s online education software, raising concerns about privacy and data protection.

  1. Data Controller Responsibility Shift: NOYB’s first complaint alleges that Microsoft shifts its responsibility as a data controller under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to schools. The 365 Education suite, which includes popular software like Word, Excel, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, and Outlook, is at the center of this issue. According to NOYB, schools lack the necessary data to fulfill this role effectively, leading to potential risks for students’ personal information.
  2. Cookie Tracking in 365 Education: The second complaint focuses on cookies installed within Microsoft’s 365 Education suite. Advertisers often use cookies to track users, but NOYB’s analysis reveals that Microsoft 365 Education appears to track users regardless of their age. This practice could impact hundreds of thousands of pupils and students across the EU and EEA (European Economic Area).

The Impact and Urgency

As online educational programs gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring privacy safeguards became crucial. NOYB’s complaints highlight the need for transparency, accountability, and robust data protection measures in educational technology. The Austrian Data Protection Authority has been urged to investigate these complaints and take appropriate action.

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