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EU Initiates Complaints Against Microsoft’s 365 Education Suite Over Privacy Concern

-By ArdorComm News Network

Microsoft is currently facing two complaints in the European Union (EU) regarding its online education software, 365 Education. According to a report by Reuters, the latest charges against the US-based tech giant have been brought to the Austrian privacy watchdog by the privacy advocacy group NOYB. The group has urged the Austrian Data Protection Authority to investigate these complaints and potentially impose a fine on Microsoft.

What is Microsoft 365 Education Suite?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online educational programs gained popularity as schools transitioned to remote teaching. Microsoft’s 365 Education suite offers various tools for students, including Word, Excel, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Complaints Against Microsoft’s 365 Education Suite

  1. First Complaint:
    • The advocacy group NOYB alleged that Microsoft shifted the burden of complying with EU data privacy laws (GDPR) onto schools. According to NOYB, schools cannot adequately manage student data under these regulations.
    • NOYB lawyer Maartje de Graaf stated: “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. Everyone knows that such contractual arrangements are out of touch with reality. This is nothing more but an attempt to shift the responsibility for children’s data as far away from Microsoft as possible.”
  2. Second Complaint:
    • The second complaint centers around cookies installed in Microsoft’s 365 Education suite that advertisers use to track consumers.
    • NOYB lawyer Felix Mikolasch expressed concerns: “Our analysis of the data flows is very worrying. Microsoft 365 Education appears to track users regardless of their age. This practice is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of pupils and students in the EU and EEA (European Economic Area).”

EU’s Previous Warnings to Microsoft

Last month, the EU warned Microsoft that it could impose a fine of up to 1% of its global annual revenue if it fails to provide requested information about the risks associated with its generative AI tools in the Bing search engine. In March, the EU asked tech giants, including Microsoft, to provide details on how they manage risks from AI tools. Microsoft has been accused of dodging questions about its “Copilot in Bing” and “Image Creator” features, which the EU fears may violate new laws by spreading misinformation and manipulating voters.

 

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