Microsoft has admitted that it is behind privacy legislation in Massachusetts to outlaw the commercial use of schoolkids’ data gathered from their use of public school computers. The Redmond-based firm has also come clean about the fact that its real target is Google, whose Apps for Education software is snapping at the heels of Microsoft’s Office suite.
MA Bill 331, which was introduced in January and is currently being referred to the legislature’s joint education committee, wants to prohibit firms with an educational cloud computing service from using the children’s data for either advertising or other commercial purposes.
The news of the bill’s origins worry campaigners for children’s rights, however. Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said, “We’ll still look at the legislation on its merits, but the origins of the bill are troubling.”
Microsoft spokesman Mike Houlihan told the Wall Street Journal, “We believe that student data should not be used for commercial purposes; 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.”
The rivalry between the two firms has grown intense. Yesterday’s massive $730 million fine by the E.U. for Microsoft’s monopolistic business practices as regards its IE browser and, previously, Windows (to add to its tax woes in Denmark), was seen by some as a veiled warning to Google to pull its business practice socks up in the old continent. In fact, the Financial Times revealed this morning that yesterday’s fine came about via a tip-off from Google, news which will only ramp up the dagger looks between the pair.