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Privacy Evaluation for Microsoft Office 365 Education

Last updated August 12, 2021

Overview

Microsoft Office 365 Education is a collection of online services that allows students to collaborate and share their schoolwork. Students and educators are eligible for Office 365 Education for free, which includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. In addition, Office 365 Education includes classroom tools such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Teams, Sway, Forms, Stream, Flow, PowerApps, School Data Sync, and Bookings.

Microsoft's terms state children can access communication services, like Outlook and Skype, and can freely communicate and share data with other users of all ages. When users are signed in, some products may display a user's name or username and their profile photo as part of their use of Microsoft products, including in a user's communications, social interactions, and public posts. Microsoft's terms state they provide a privacy dashboard that allows users to control some of the data Microsoft processes through their use of a Microsoft account on the Microsoft privacy dashboard. From here, the terms state users can view and clear their browsing, search, and location data associated with their Microsoft account. Microsoft's terms state they are committed to protecting the security of its users' personal data. Microsoft uses a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect users' personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. If a user uses a Microsoft product provided by an school or district they are affiliated with, or use an email address provided by a school or district to access Microsoft products, Microsoft may share certain data, such as interaction data and diagnostic data to enable a school or district to manage the products.

Microsoft Office 365 Education can be accessed through its website, and is available for download at their iOS App Store Homepage, and their Google Play Store Homepage. The Privacy Statement and Terms of Use used for this evaluation can be found on Microsoft Office 365 Education’s website. This evaluation is intended to provide key information about Microsoft Office 365 collection and use of data for for Education users. Where there are terms that differ, as with the limitations on advertising in Office 365 for Education take precedence, followed by Microsoft's Privacy Statement.

Additionally, other relevant policies used for this evaluation include:

Safety

Microsoft's terms state children can access communication services, like Outlook and Skype, and can freely communicate and share data with other users of all ages. When users are signed in, some products may display a user's name or username and their profile photo as part of their use of Microsoft products, including in a user's communications, social interactions, and public posts. The terms state that when a user creates a personal Microsoft account, they will be asked to provide certain personal data and they will assign a unique ID number to identify a user's account and associated information. While some products, such as those involving payment, require a real name, the terms state users can sign in and use other Microsoft products without providing their real name. Some data a user provides, such as their display name, email address, and phone number, can be used to help others find and connect with that user within Microsoft products.

In addition, the terms state that users should be aware that when they share their content with other people, it may become publicly visible to others. Microsoft's terms state they also provide parental tools called Family Features, which allow parents and kids to build trust based on a shared understanding of what behaviors, websites, apps, games, physical locations, and spending is right in their family. Parents can create a family account by going to https://account.microsoft.com/family and inviting their kids or other parents to join.

Privacy

Microsoft's terms state they provide a privacy dashboard that allows users to control some of the data Microsoft processes through their use of a Microsoft account on the Microsoft privacy dashboard. From here, the terms state users can view and clear their browsing, search, and location data associated with their Microsoft account. The terms state many of Microsoft’s products require some personal data to provide users with its services. The data Microsoft services can collect include: first and last name, email address, postal address, phone number, password credentials, and data about users such as their age, gender, country, and preferred language.

In addition, the terms state Microsoft also obtains data about users from third parties, such as data brokers from which Microsoft purchases demographic data to supplement the data they collect, and from services that make user-generated content from their service available to others, such as local business reviews or public social media posts. In carrying out these purposes, the terms state Microsoft combines data they collect from different contexts (for example, from a user's use of two Microsoft products) or obtain from third parties to give users a more seamless, consistent, and personalized experience, to make informed business decisions, and for other legitimate purposes.

The terms say a user's data is not sold to third parties, and the terms say that personal information will be used or otherwise processed only to provide users the services including purposes compatible with providing those services. Also, Microsoft's Online Service Terms state they will not use or otherwise process personal information or derive information from it for any advertising or similar commercial purposes. However, parents and teachers should be aware that the Microsoft's privacy policy states they may use personal information for marketing and advertising purposes for other Microsoft products.

Security

Microsoft's terms state they are committed to protecting the security of its users' personal data. Microsoft uses a variety of security technologies and procedures to help protect users' personal data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure. For example, the terms state Microsoft stores the personal data users provide on computer systems that have limited access and are in controlled facilities and protect the data users entrust to Microsoft through strong security and encryption. In addition, the terms state security is central to compliance with FERPA, which requires the protection of student information from unauthorized disclosures. The terms state educational institutions that use cloud computing should have contractual reassurances from a technology vendor like Microsoft that they will manage sensitive student data appropriately.

In addition, the terms state Microsoft uses data to protect the safety of their products and their customers. Microsoft's security features and products can disrupt the operation of malicious software and notify users if malicious software is found on their devices. The terms also state Microsoft uses data they collect to develop product updates and security patches. For example, the terms state Microsoft may use information about a user's device’s capabilities, such as available memory, to provide users with a software update or security patch. The terms also state updates and patches are intended to maximize users' experience with Microsoft's products, help users' protect the privacy and security of their data, provide new features, and ensure a user's device is ready to process updates. Lastly, the terms state Microsoft complies with data protection laws, including providing security breach notification to users.

Compliance

If a user uses a Microsoft product provided by an school or district they are affiliated with, or use an email address provided by a school or district to access Microsoft products, Microsoft may share certain data, such as interaction data and diagnostic data to enable a school or district to manage the products. The data associated with a school account, and how it will be used, is generally similar to the use and collection of data associated with a personal Microsoft account. If a school uses Azure Active Directory (AAD) to manage the account it provides to users, then a user can use their school account to sign in to Microsoft products, such as Office 365, and third-party products. If required by a school or district, users may also be asked to provide a phone number or an alternative email address for additional security verification.

In its terms, Microsoft agrees to obtain parental consent before collecting or disclosing personal information from minors. In addition, Microsoft states it may be designated as a “school official” with “legitimate educational interests” in student data as defined under FERPA. Microsoft also commits to using student data only to provide schools and districts with its cloud services and compatible purposes (such as improving malware detection), and does not mine student data for advertising. Lastly, the terms state Microsoft contractually commits not to disclose student data except as the educational institution directs, or as described in a school or district contract. Furthermore, the terms state schools that provide education records to Microsoft through their use of a Microsoft cloud service can be assured that those records are subject to stringent contractual restrictions regarding their use and disclosure.

Data Collection
SCORE: 60%

What data does it collect?

  • Personally identifiable information (PII) is collected.
  • The categories of collected personally identifiable information are indicated.
  • Collection or use of data is limited to product requirements.
  • Geolocation data are collected.
  • Unclear whether this product collects biometric or health data.
  • Interactions, behaviors, or usage analytics data are collected.
  • Sensitive data are collected.
  • Data is automatically collected.
  • Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  • Personal information of users is collected by a third party.
Data Sharing
SCORE: 95%

What data does it share?

  • Collected information is shared with third parties.
  • The categories of information shared with third parties are indicated.
  • The purpose for sharing a user's personal information with third parties is indicated.
  • The categories of third parties that receive data are indicated.
  • Data are shared for analytics.
  • Data are not shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Third-party services are used to support the product.
  • The roles of third-party service providers are indicated.
  • Third-party login is supported.
  • Contractual limits are placed on third-party data use.
Data Security
SCORE: 95%

How does it secure data?

  • A user's identity is verified with additional personal information.
  • Account creation is required.
  • Managed accounts are available.
  • Multi-factor account protection is available.
  • Third-parties with access to information are required to provide the same security protections as the company.
  • Reasonable security practices are used to protect data.
  • Employee or physical access to user information is limited.
  • All data in transit are encrypted.
  • All data are stored in an encrypted format.
  • Notice is provided in the event of a data breach.
Data Rights
SCORE: 95%

What rights do I have to the data?

  • Users can create or upload content.
  • Users retain ownership of their data.
  • Processes to access or review user data are available.
  • Processes to modify data are available for authorized users.
  • A data-retention policy is available.
  • Processes for authorized users to delete data are available.
  • A user's data are deleted upon account cancellation or termination.
  • Data are deleted when no longer necessary.
  • Methods are available to restrict who has access to data.
  • Processes to download user data are available.
Data Sold
SCORE: 55%

Is the data sold?

  • Personal information is not sold or rented to third parties.
  • Users can opt out from the disclosure or sale of their data to a third party.
  • User information can be transferred to a third party in the event of a merge, acquisition, or bankruptcy.
  • Unclear whether users are notified if their information is transferred to a third party.
  • Unclear whether user information can be deleted prior to its transfer to a third party.
  • Unclear whether third-party transfers are contractually required to use the same privacy practices.
  • User information that is shared is shared in an anonymous or de-identified format.
  • Unclear whether the company describes their de-identification process of user information.
  • Data are not shared for research and/or product improvement.
  • Contractual limits prohibit third parties from reidentifying or de-identified information.
Data Safety
SCORE: 45%

How safe is this product?

  • Users can interact with trusted users.
  • Users can interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  • Profile information must be shared for social interactions.
  • Personal information can be displayed publicly.
  • Users can control how their data are displayed to others.
  • User-created content is not reviewed, screened, or monitored by the company.
  • User-created content is not filtered for personal information before being made publicly visible.
  • Unclear whether social interactions between users are moderated.
  • Unclear whether social interactions of users are logged.
  • Unclear whether users can report abuse or cyberbullying.
Ads & Tracking
SCORE: 85%

Are there advertisements or tracking?

  • Personal information is not shared for third-party marketing.
  • Traditional or contextual advertisements are displayed.
  • Personalised advertising is not displayed.
  • Data are not collected by third-parties for their own purposes.
  • Users's information is not used to track and target advertisements on other third-party websites or services.
  • Data profiles are not created and used for personalised advertisements.
  • The company can send marketing messages.
  • The company does provide promotional sweepstakes, contests, or surveys.
  • Users can opt out of contextual, or personalised advertising.
  • Users can opt out or unsubscribe from marketing communications.
Parental Consent
SCORE: 75%

Can I provide parental consent?

  • Intended for children under 13.
  • Personal information from children under 13 years of age is collected.
  • Unclear whether intended for parents or guardians.
  • Company does have actual knowledge that personal information from users under 13 years of age is collected.
  • The company does provide a section, heading, or separate policy for children in their policies.
  • Parental consent is required before personal information is collected or disclosed.
  • Unclear whether this product limits parental consent with respect to third parties.
  • Parents can withdraw consent for the further collection of their child's information.
  • Children's personal information is deleted if collected without parental consent.
  • Parental consent notice and method for submission are provided.
School Purpose
SCORE: 56%

Is the product intended for school?

  • Intended for students.
  • Personal information or education records are collected from preK-12 students.
  • Unclear whether intended for teachers.
  • Product is primarily used by, designed for, and marketed toward students in grades preK–12.
  • Processes to enter education records into the product are described.
  • Additional rights or protections may be provided with an additional school contract.
  • Unclear whether the company is designated as a school official.
  • Unclear whether this product transfers parental consent obligations to the school or district.
Individual Control
SCORE: 85%

Can I control the use of my data?

  • Users can control the use of their information through privacy settings.
  • Use of information is limited to the purpose for which it was collected.
  • The context or purpose for which data are collected is indicated.
  • Company may combine data with additional data from third-party sources.
  • Combined information is treated as personally identifiable information (PII).
  • Notice is provided if the context in which data are collected changes.
  • Consent is obtained if the practices in which data are collected change.
  • A grievance or remedy mechanism is available for users to file a complaint.
  • Unclear whether users can request to know what personal information has been shared with third parties.
  • Notice is provided in the event the company receives a government or legal request for a user's information.

Common Sense Standard Privacy Report (SPR)

The standard privacy report (SPR) displays all the privacy practices from a product's policies in a single, easy-to-read outline. The report shows a green check mark for better privacy practices and an orange alert for risky or unclear practices. This alert indicates that more time should be focused on these particular details prior to use.

About Privacy Evaluations

The privacy evaluations have been designed with the help and support of a consortium of schools and districts across the United States. These evaluations are designed to help educators make informed decisions about the potential privacy implications of educational technology used to support teaching and learning.

Our core evaluation criteria will always be freely available. People are encouraged to read the questions we use and our information security primer. Vendors are encouraged to use our questions and the information security primer to self-evaluate. You can also learn more about our evaluation process. Please be in touch with any questions or feedback.