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Microsoft’s New Outlook App Isn’t Safe For Government Email

The EU parliament today barred its members from using the app due to “serious security issues.”

Microsoft’s New Outlook App Isn’t Safe For Government Email
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Mozart]

Microsoft may have finally released a great Outlook app for iOS and Android–but good luck using it if you happen to be a member of the European parliament.

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Following concerns over “serious security issues,” members of parliament are barred from using the app to access their official email. The reason is that the app sends password information back to Microsoft, while also storing emails on a third-party cloud server. Given the number of high-profile computing hacks that have taken place over the last year (Sony hack, anyone?), it seems that European officials didn’t want to take the risk.

In a circulated email, obtained by the IDG News Service, it was noted that parliamentary members should “not install this application, and in case you have already done so for your EP corporate mail, please uninstall it immediately and change your password.”

It’s not just the European parliament that has taken issue with the security—or lack thereof—of Microsoft’s new app. In a much-circulated blog post, security expert René Winkelmeyer described the app as a “data security nightmare” and referred to the scope of the problem as “breathtaking.” The University of Wisconsin has also announced that it is blocking the app from accessing campus emails for the same reason.

This isn’t the first time that the European parliament has chosen to opt on the safe side when it comes to the security of tech products. Fears over NSA eavesdropping have seen non-encrypted phones banished from the German parliament, while President Obama has had to stick with his BlackBerry over an iPhone due to security fears.

We’d make a comment about governments slamming tech companies for security lapses, while simultaneously requesting troves of user data, but it would likely fall on deaf ears. From Microsoft’s perspective, if it plans to push for its Outlook app to become the de facto enterprise email app for smartphones and tablets, it may want to consider revising its own security policy.

Update 2/12/2015: We received the following statement from a Microsoft spokesman:

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Microsoft values the privacy and security of our customers and we are committed to making Outlook for iOS and Android both loved by users and trusted by IT. That means putting customers in control of their data, both through the design of our products and through transparency on how data is used. We are delivering additional security and management features in the coming months. In the meantime, we’ve provided detailed guidance for IT administrators seeking to restrict use of this app at this time in their organizations and the OWA for iPhone/iPad/Android apps will remain in market for customers requiring the advanced Office 365 and Exchange Server features that these apps offer.

[via PCWorld]