Dutch report warns about privacy leaks in Office Online and apps.

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A report commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security warns government departments NOT to use Microsoft Office Online or the apps for Apple or Android.

The Privacy Company report was made public with the Ministry’s permission via two blog posts short and long.

Many governments and organizations have legitimate concerns about the amount of private data sent by Windows and Office back to Microsoft and other companies. You can see this happening on your own computer: see the amazing amount of information Microsoft is getting from Windows and Office

“In recent months, Microsoft has globally implemented a large number of technical and organisational measures to reduce the privacy risks identified for Office 365 ProPlus. Since May 2019, Microsoft has been publishing extensive documentation on the diagnostic data relating to the use of Office ProPlus. Microsoft has adapted its existing Data Viewer Tool for Windows 10 to also display the Office 365 ProPlus telemetry data. This allows data subjects to view the Office ProPlus data that Microsoft collects from their device.”

Microsoft has worked to reduce, but not eliminate, those concerns when it comes to Office 365 for Windows and Windows 10 … but that’s it.

“Since the release of the Office 365 ProPlus version 1904, as made available by Microsoft on 29 April 2019, Microsoft has also built in a choice for system administrators to minimize the telemetry level. Microsoft offers three options: Required, Optional, and Neither.”

Source: Privacy Company

Office Online and apps

None of that applies to the browser-based version of Office (Office Online) nor the Office apps.  Microsoft can and does collect data from use of these Office programs.

“Microsoft has not yet implemented these improvements in Office Online (the version of the software that runs in a browser) and the mobile Office apps (the apps that can be installed on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets). … It is not possible to minimize data traffic in Office Online.”

Office for Apple data sent beyond Microsoft

People might trust Microsoft with their personal data but the Dutch government report warns that private data from the iPhone/iPad apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint is sent to a third-party US marketing company.

“From at least three of the mobile apps on iOS, data about the use of the apps goes to a US-American marketing company that specializes in predictive profiling. This is done without providing any information about the purposes of this processing, and without giving the users or administrators any possibility to prevent this processing.”

We don’t know how that data is used, what privacy protections there are (if any) and there’s no way to stop it except not using Office apps for iOS.

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