Home News EU Accuses Microsoft of Secretly Collecting Children’s Data

EU Accuses Microsoft of Secretly Collecting Children’s Data

EU Accuses Microsoft of Secretly Collecting Children's Data

In a significant development, the European Union has accused Microsoft of secretly collecting data from children without proper parental consent. This accusation comes on the heels of a $20 million fine imposed by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for similar violations, underscoring the tech giant’s ongoing challenges with data privacy and compliance.

Background of the Accusations

The FTC charged Microsoft with violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The allegations centered around the company’s practices on its Xbox gaming platform. According to the FTC, Microsoft collected personal information from children under the age of 13 during the Xbox Live account registration process without adequately notifying parents or obtaining their consent. Furthermore, the company retained this data for longer periods than permitted by law, even when account creation was not completed​.

Details of the Violations

The specific violations included collecting phone numbers and other personal information before obtaining parental approval. The FTC highlighted that Microsoft allowed children to access third-party games and applications on Xbox Live without sufficient parental controls in place. This enabled the sharing of children’s data with third-party developers without explicit parental consent, a clear breach of COPPA regulations​.

EU’s Stance and Potential Actions

Following the FTC’s actions, the European Union has also raised concerns about Microsoft’s data collection practices. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets stringent requirements for data collection, especially for minors. The EU’s investigation is expected to scrutinize whether Microsoft’s practices comply with GDPR, which mandates transparent data collection processes and explicit parental consent for minors’ data​.

The EU’s involvement signals a broader scrutiny of tech companies’ data practices on a global scale. Given the significant fines and penalties under GDPR, Microsoft could face substantial financial and reputational damage if found in violation of these regulations.

Microsoft’s Response

Microsoft has acknowledged the FTC’s findings and agreed to the $20 million settlement. The company stated that it is committed to enhancing its privacy practices and ensuring compliance with COPPA and other relevant laws. Microsoft announced plans to update its account creation process and implement new measures for better age and identity verification on its platforms​.

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson emphasized the company’s dedication to providing a safe and secure experience for all users, particularly minors. The spokesperson also mentioned upcoming improvements to privacy controls and parental consent mechanisms to prevent future violations​.

Implications for the Tech Industry

The accusations and subsequent actions against Microsoft highlight the critical importance of robust data privacy practices, particularly concerning minors. As regulatory bodies worldwide tighten their scrutiny, tech companies must prioritize compliance with privacy laws to avoid severe penalties and maintain user trust.

This case serves as a reminder of the responsibilities tech companies hold in safeguarding user data, especially for vulnerable populations like children. It also underscores the necessity for parents to remain vigilant about the data privacy practices of platforms their children use.


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