NIXsolutions: Privacy Concerns with Microsoft 365 Education

Austrian human rights organization NOYB (None Of Your Business) has filed two complaints against Microsoft regarding the operation of its Microsoft 365 Education software package and children’s privacy. The organization has previously filed complaints about the work of OpenAI, Meta, Spotify, and other technology companies.


Allegations Against Microsoft 365 Education

Microsoft 365 Education software, according to NOYB, “sets cookies that, according to Microsoft’s own documentation, are used to analyze user behavior, collect browser data, and for advertising,” without the school’s knowledge. Microsoft, human rights activists say, is “steadily vague” about what it does with schoolchildren’s data and may be secretly monitoring children.

“Our analysis of data flows is very alarming. Microsoft 365 Education appears to track users regardless of their age. These activities are likely to affect hundreds of thousands of EU and EEA school and student pupils. The authorities must finally step up and effectively ensure that the rights of minors are respected,” said NOYB data protection lawyer Felix Mikolasch.

GDPR Responsibilities and Potential Violations

Microsoft is shifting its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) responsibilities to schools without providing them with any access or explanation about its privacy or data collection policies, advocates say. “Microsoft keeps all the key data handling information in its software, but points the finger at schools when it comes to enforcing rights. Schools are deprived of the opportunity to comply with transparency and information processing obligations,” added another NOYB lawyer, Maartje de Graaf.

The GDPR sets strict standards for the protection of minors’ data, with a focus on additional identity protection, transparency, and accountability, notes NIXsolutions. Violation of the regulations carries a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s global turnover for the previous year, whichever is greater. We’ll keep you updated on any further developments regarding these complaints and the response from Microsoft and regulatory authorities.