You might have heard about the recent privacy bill in Massachusetts that aims to make it illegal for companies to gather data on school kids using school computers for commercial purposes. And no doubt you’d have presumed that whoever’s behind the bill has some pretty good intentions – after all, this is about protecting children, right?
Wrong. As a matter of fact, the bill is to all intents and purposes yet another new front opened by Microsoft on its never-ending war with Google, this time targeting its rival’s Apps for Education that it sees as a direct threat to its suite of Microsoft Office tools.
The Redmond-based firm finally owned up to being the driving force behind MA Bill 331 this morning. The bill was first revealed in January of this year, and aims to prohibit companies that offer cloud education services from using school kid’s data for targeted adverts and other commercial purposes.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, MS spokesperson Mike Houlihan insisted that the company only had the best of intentions:
“We believe that student day should not be used for commercial purposes,” he claimed.
“Cloud-service providers should be transparent in how they use student data, and they should obtain clear consent for the way they use that data. We expect that students, parents and educators will judge the proposed legislation on its merits.”
However, not everyone is buying Microsoft’s innocent act. Josh Golin of the activist group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood says that while they’ll still take the legislation on its merits, the fact that Microsoft is the one whose been pushing it is “troubling”.
In response to the bill, Google has reiterated that its Apps for Education tools do not carry any advertising whatsoever, but it doesn’t deny that it still gathers kids’ data while they’re using them. Microsoft argues that Google is in all likelihood still gathering data to be used for other purposes, although it hasn’t elaborated on what those purposes might be, which leads us to suspect that the whole shenanigan is little more than a ploy aimed at protecting its own business interests.
Looking ahead, there’s every likelihood that the war between Microsoft and Google will only become more intense, as the two firms look to get one over each other wherever and whenever the opportunity might arise. Google is far from being an innocent party either – just this morning, the Financial Times revealed that it tipped off the EU about Microsoft’s browser-choice blooper that resulted in a massive $730 million fine.