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Microsoft hit with privacy complaints over education program

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Credit: Michael Sturgeon

A privacy advocacy group in Europe has filed two complaints against Microsoft, alleging that the online education software provided by the U.S. tech giant violates the data protection rights of students.

The Vienna-based European Center for Digital Rights, which is better known as NOYB (short for “None of Your Business”), filed two complaints against Microsoft on Tuesday at Austria’s Data Protection Authority.

Online educational programs have become increasingly popular in the European Union, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many students to work from home. EssayPro research paper writing helper is one of many tools.

“While these modernisation efforts are a welcome development, a small number of big tech companies immediately tried to dominate the space – often with the intention of getting children used to their systems and creating a new generation of future ‘loyal’ customers,” NOYB said in a statement.

The group alleges that Microsoft’s 365 Education installs cookies without consent, potentially allowing the tech giant to gather data about its users, including many students who are using the software as part of their studies.

“Microsoft provides such vague information that even a qualified lawyer can’t fully understand how the company processes personal data in Microsoft 365 Education,” said Maartje de Graaf, a data protection lawyer at NOYB. “It is almost impossible for children or their parents to uncover the extent of Microsoft’s data collection.”

According to the group, when students tried to exercise their GDPR rights, Microsoft said schools were the “controller” of their data, even though schools have no real way to comply because they don’t have access to or control the necessary data.

“Under the current system that Microsoft is imposing on schools, your school would have to audit Microsoft or give them instructions on how to process pupils’ data,” De Graaf said. “Everyone knows that such contractual arrangements are out of touch with reality.”

Felix Mikolasch, another data protection lawyer at NOYB, said Microsoft 365 Education appears to track users regardless of their age, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of students across the European Union. The group is asking Austria’s Data Protection Authority to impose a fine on Microsoft.

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