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Microsoft backs privacy bill in effort to keep Google Apps out of the classroom

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computer lab (shutterstock)
computer lab (shutterstock)

In the ongoing battle between Microsoft and Google over the market for office software, Massachusetts legislators are now considering considering a bill that would restrict cloud computing services from using student data for commercial purposes like (but not limited to) advertising. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bill is the work of Microsoft, which is trying to protect its lucrative Office business from encroachments by Google’s free Apps for Education. A Microsoft spokesman articulated the company’s position.

"We believe that student data should not be used for commercial purposes; that cloud-service providers should be transparent in how they use student data; and that service providers should obtain clear consent for the way they use data. We expect that students, parents and educators will judge any proposed legislation on its merits."

Microsoft acknowledged both that the legislation is aimed at Google and that it asked a lobbyist group called Issues Management Group to "raise student-privacy issues with lawmakers." The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carlo Basile, introduced the bill in January after meeting with the same group.

Google points out that Apps for Education is free from ads, but Microsoft argues that the company could still be compiling data for other uses, although it refused to answer what exactly it thought Google was doing with the data. Publicizing privacy concerns about Google Apps aren’t a new thing for Microsoft. Last year it ran a series of full-page ads in national newspapers drawing attention to the company’s unpopular new privacy policy, and more recently launched a renewed "seven figure" Scroogled ad campaign lambasting the company for "going through your personal email."