Microsoft 365 Education Suite Faces Scrutiny in EU Schools

EU Schools Scrutinize Microsoft 365 Education Suite
Microsoft 365 Education Suite Faces Scrutiny in EU Schools

Microsoft is under scrutiny in EU Schools for two issues related to its digital learning platform, 365 Education. A report from Reuters indicates that a privacy advocacy group known as NOYB has complained to the Austrian privacy authority. This group has also called on the Austrian Data Protection Authority to look into their grievances and issue a penalty against Microsoft.

What is the Microsoft 365 Education suite?

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital learning platforms saw a surge in popularity as schools transitioned to online instruction and students began to learn remotely.

Microsoft's 365 Education suite, a collection of software applications for students, includes programs like Word, Excel, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

What are the issues raised against Microsoft's 365 Education suite?

In the initial grievance, the advocacy organization claimed that Microsoft transferred the responsibility for adhering to EU data protection regulations (GDPR) onto educational institutions, despite the fact that these institutions are not equipped to handle student information in compliance with these rules.

In a press release, Maartje de Graaf, a lawyer with NOYB, stated: "In the current framework Microsoft is enforcing on schools, your institution would be required to either conduct audits on Microsoft or direct them on how to handle student information. It's widely recognized that such agreements are impractical. This is essentially a strategy to distance themselves as much as possible from the accountability for student data."

The subsequent grievance centers on the use of cookies by Microsoft's 365 Education platform, which is utilized by advertisers to monitor consumer behavior.

Felix Mikolasch, another lawyer with NOYB, expressed concern: "Our examination of the data exchanges is quite alarming. Microsoft 365 Education seems to monitor users of all ages. This behavior is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of students and learners across the EU and EEA (European Economic Area)."

In the previous month, the European Union cautioned Microsoft, stating that it would levy a penalty of as much as 1% of its worldwide yearly earnings if it did not supply the necessary information regarding the potential dangers linked to its generative AI technologies within the Bing search engine.

In March, the European Union requested information from major technology companies, such as Microsoft, concerning their strategies for addressing the risks posed by AI tools. Microsoft avoided addressing inquiries regarding its "Copilot in Bing" and "Image Creator" functionalities, which the EU is concerned might contravene recent regulations by disseminating false information and influencing public opinion.

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