Alarming Report: Microsoft collects & stores personal behavioral data on a large scale via Office 2016/365

A new impact assessment shows privacy risks Microsoft Office ProPlus Enterprise.

On behalf of the Ministry of Security and Justice, Privacy Company carried out a DPIA on DPIA on Microsoft Office ProPlus (Office 2016 MSI and Office 365 CTR). At the request of the Ministry, they published a blog about the findings.

The SLM Rijk conducts negotiations with Microsoft for approximately 300.000 digital work stations of the national government. The Enterprise version of the Office software is deployed by different governmental organisations, such as ministries, the judiciary, the police and the taxing authority.

The results of this Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) are alarming. Microsoft collects and stores personal data about the behaviour of individual employees on a large scale, without any public documentation. The DPIA report (in English) as published by the Ministry is available here

Most government organisations in the Netherlands use versions of Office 2016 and Office 365 (or even older versions) that are installed on the computers of the government employees. The organisations store the content data locally, in their own data centres (on premise). But this will change.

Large scale and covert collection of personal data

Microsoft systematically collects data on a large scale about the individual use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Covertly, without informing people. Microsoft does not offer any choice with regard to the amount of data, or possibility to switch off the collection, or ability to see what data are collected, because the data stream is encoded. Similar to the practice in Windows 10, Microsoft has included separate software in the Office software that regularly sends telemetry data to its own servers in the United States. For example, Microsoft collects information about events in Word, when you use the backspace key a number of times in a row, which probably means you do not know the correct spelling. But also the sentence before and after a word that you look up in the online spelling checker or translation service. Microsoft not only collects use data via the inbuilt telemetry client, but also records and stores the individual use of Connected Services. For example, if users access a Connected Service such as the translate service through the Office software, Microsoft can store the personal data about this usage in so called system-generated event logs.

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For questions about the research you can contact SLM Rijk (Strategic Vendor Management Microsoft Rijk), accessible via the Press Office from the Ministry of Justice, 070 370 73 45.

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