Microsoft faces GDPR investigation over data protection concerns

NOYB’s complaints against Microsoft’s 365 Education software have led to an investigation by the Austrian Data Protection Authority.

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The advocacy group NOYB has filed two complaints against Microsoft’s 365 Education software suite, alleging that the company is shifting its responsibilities for children’s personal data onto schools that are not equipped to handle these responsibilities. The complaints centre on concerns about transparency and processing children’s data on the Microsoft platform, potentially violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The first complaint alleges that Microsoft’s contracts with schools attempt to shift responsibility for GDPR compliance onto them despite schools lacking the capacity to monitor or enforce Microsoft’s data practices. That could result in children’s data being processed in ways that do not comply with GDPR. The second complaint highlights the use of tracking cookies within Microsoft 365 Education software, which reportedly collects user browsing data and analyses user behaviour, potentially for advertising purposes.

NOYB claims that such tracking practices occur without users’ consent or the schools’ knowledge, and there appears to be no legal justification for it under GDPR. They request that the Austrian Data Protection Authority investigate the complaints and determine the extent of data processing by Microsoft 365 Education. The group has also urged the authority to impose fines if GDPR violations are confirmed.

Microsoft has not yet responded to the complaints. Still, the company has stated that its 365 for Education complies with GDPR and other applicable privacy laws and that it thoroughly protects the privacy of its young users.