Microsoft has been accused of likely tracking hundreds of thousands of European schoolchildren’s data through its education software deployed in schools across the continent, according to advocacy group NOYB.

The two complaints to the Austrian privacy watchdog focus on Microsoft’s 365 Education suite for students, which includes Word, Excel, Microsoft Teams, PowerPoint and Outlook.

The first NOYB complaint focuses on cookies installed in the student software programmes, which allows advertisers to track consumers.

“Our analysis of the data flows is very worrying. Microsoft 365 Education appears to track users regardless of their age. This practice is likely to affect hundreds of thousands of pupils and students in the EU and EEA [European Economic Area],” said NOYB lawyer Felix Mikolasch.

In the second complaint, the advocacy group said that Microsoft had shifted its responsibilities for children’s data onto schools that are not equipped to cope.

“Under the current system that Microsoft is imposing on schools, your school would have to audit Microsoft or give them instructions on how to process pupils’ data,” NOYB lawyer Maartje de Graaf said in a statement. “Everyone knows that such contractual arrangements are out of touch with reality.”

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Microsoft has initiated layoffs impacting hundreds of employees within its Azure cloud business, reported Business Insider, citing sources. 

The reductions have affected the Azure for Operators and Mission Engineering teams, which are integral parts of the Strategic Missions and Technologies (SMT) division. 

SMT was established in 2021 to focus on advanced projects such as quantum computing and space technologies. 

One of the sources said that the job cuts within the Azure for Operators team could number as many as 1,500.  

The SMT division, led by former Azure head Jason Zander, was formed to consolidate Microsoft’s ‘moonshot’ initiatives, including its government cloud services.