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Microsoft to replace Office Pro Plus after Dutch ministry questions privacy

The Netherlands’ justice ministry turned into worried popular programs were sending diagnostic facts from Europe to the United States without adequate consumer controls.

By DANIEL LIPPMAN 2/eight/19, 7:30 AM CET Updated 2/eight/19, five:03 PM CET
Microsoft plans to replace its Office Pro Plus products by means of the quit of April to address a sequence of privateness concerns raised in an audit commissioned with the aid of the Dutch justice ministry that flagged what the auditors knew as “excessive dangers” to government customers’ privacy.

The replace for most of the corporation’s Office Pro Plus clients, which has been confirmed by way of Microsoft, will cope with issues referring to a package of famous Microsoft programs — namely that they were sending diagnostic records from Europe to the USA without good enough documentation and user controls over what changed into despatched.

Microsoft and the Dutch justice ministry agreed on the modifications as a part of an “improvement plan” with an April cut-off date. A ministry spokesman told POLITICO that if Microsoft’s responses proved “unsatisfactory,” the ministry could improve the concerns with European records protection government for further action that could include “enforcement measures.”

In an announcement, Microsoft’s top privacy and regulatory counsel, Julie Brill, underscored that the Dutch ministry had commissioned the audit as a client of Microsoft and had not sought regulatory action in opposition to the corporation.

“The ministry commissioned the document in its potential as a purchaser to make clear how our offerings are run and we’re operating with the ministry’s body of workers to proportion extra data and help resolve its questions as we might for all business enterprise clients,” Brill said.

She added that the problems raised inside the report, performed through the Privacy Company, a Hague-based totally consultancy, relate to “diagnostic data in one product,” Office Pro Plus, and that the organization is “assured this is constant with Dutch regulation and GDPR,” Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation privacy law. Office Pro Plus includes various Microsoft programs.

“We feel top approximately what we’re doing to offer customers transparency and desire at the diagnostic statistics they proportion with us, but we constantly want to do greater,” Brill said. “In the approaching weeks, we are able to take additional steps to make it less difficult for customers to apprehend what records wishes to visit Microsoft to run our offerings and why, and where information-sharing is optionally available.”

When Microsoft updates products, the replace commonly takes area international for customers of the product and the business enterprise gave no indication that could be one of a kind in this example.

Under the EU’s statistics safety legal guidelines, the Irish Data Protection Commission is the “lead supervisory authority” in charge of making sure Microsoft complies with the regulations. If the Netherlands selected to boost its worries, it can forward a request on the relevant issues to the Irish regulator. Meanwhile, any problems might be closely monitored by using the European Data Protection Board, which gathers all EU statistics regulators, and the European Data Protection Supervisor, which may in flip begin their very own investigations that might cause enforcement action.

A spokesperson for the Irish Data Protection Commission said it’s miles “aware about this depend and its significance to agencies using the Microsoft product in question. On turning into aware, the DPC without delay engaged with Microsoft seeking similar information at the processing of telemetry statistics, in reaction to which Microsoft is offering specific responses.”

Audit revelations
The Privacy Company, a consulting company that the ministry shriveled to do the audit, said in a blog summary of the findings that “Microsoft systematically collects facts on a massive scale about the individual use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.”

It delivered: “Covertly, without informing humans … Microsoft does now not provide any desire in regards to the number of statistics, or possibility to the interchange of the gathering, or capability to see what information is accumulated, because the records circulate is encoded.” A main situation of the Dutch turned into that the enterprise sends the statistics again to its servers inside the U.S.

Microsoft doesn’t accept as true with a number of the assertions of the Privacy Company’s document however is making changes to its merchandise as it routinely does to deal with customers. The business enterprise has previously disclosed to customers its use of diagnostic facts.

The new focus on privateness comes as one-of-a-kind additives of Microsoft, one of the globe’s most treasured companies, have recently confronted scrutiny for a selection of privateness concerns, in particular, LinkedIn, which Microsoft offered in late 2016 for $26 billion.

Nicole Leverich, a spokesperson for LinkedIn, said: “member records is by no means shared with clients on an for my part identifiable degree, most effective in aggregate for ad sales.” Last November, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission located that LinkedIn used the email addresses of around 18 million non-LinkedIn contributors to target individuals with advertisements on Facebook all which will develop its customer base.

The regulators referred to that LinkedIn’s moves violated its safety requirements, despite the fact that the dispute became amicably resolved.

Leverich said the enterprise “absolutely cooperated with the DPC’s 2017 investigation of a complaint about a European advertising and marketing campaign and found the worldwide tactics and strategies we had in place have been no longer observed. We took suitable action and feature made the internal adjustments to assist shield towards this taking place again.” In Brazil ultimate year, federal prosecutors stated Microsoft had violated nearby laws with its collection of Windows 10 customers’ information without getting right consent. In 2016, France ordered Microsoft to cut back its series of consumer records and to halt tracking of the web browsing habits of Windows 10 users without getting permission.

Despite these privateness dustups, Brill touted the recent steps Microsoft has made to improve users’ privacy, which includes “new features inside the Windows setup method, more advantageous options for mistakes statistics reporting in Xbox, a feature referred to as Lockbox for Azure, and updates to our Privacy Dashboard including new tools for mother and father to manage their kids’ settings,” she stated.

Saint or sinner?
Microsoft has been the problem of some of the lawsuits to the Irish Data Protection Commission, in step with a fee spokesman, but none had been critical enough to warrant a statutory investigation, and of the sixteen open investigations into multinational tech agencies, none are related to Microsoft. There had been 3,500 complaints to the commission in overall.

Unlike different tech agencies, like Facebook, that have drawn fire for privateness troubles and issues spreading fake news, Microsoft has set itself up as a paragon of correct behavior, welcoming scrutiny into the organization and the broader tech industry. Company leadership automatically highlights its proactive investments in privacy. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments after Microsoft challenged an American seek warrant for a purchaser email that resided in Microsoft’s servers in Ireland, and closing May, the agency introduced it changed into extending the privacy rights which might be on the center of GDPR to its global patron customer base.

“Having the scrutiny is absolutely top, I assume,” CEO Satya Nadella advised the Washington Post closing October. He entreated the tech sector to enhance its behavior. “Anyone who is offering a totally vital service desires to elevate the standards of the safety of that generation and the security of that technology.”

The large troubles affecting Facebook have touched different businesses as well, consisting of Microsoft. The New York Times mentioned in December that Facebook gave Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, the ability to view the names of virtually all Facebook users’ buddies without permission and also had statistics-sharing preparations with businesses inclusive of Netflix, Spotify, Amazon, and Yahoo.

“Bing did no longer hold profiles primarily based on Facebook records for advertising or personalization purposes, and we took widespread engineering steps beyond what Facebook required to make sure this will not happen,” stated Brill.

“We ended our settlement with Facebook in February 2016 and information stopped performing in search effects.”

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