European Commission Found in Violation of Own Data Laws Through Use of Microsoft 365

Discover the implications of the EDPS's findings on the EU Commission's Microsoft 365 usage, violating data protection laws. Learn key lessons for safeguarding data privacy in the cloud.

The recent findings by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) shed light on a significant data protection oversight within one of the most respected institutions—the European Commission (EC). After a thorough investigation, it has been revealed that the EC's use of Microsoft 365 infringes upon the EU's stringent data protection laws. This development not only underscores the challenges of maintaining data sovereignty in a cloud-centric world but also serves as a pivotal learning moment for organizations worldwide.

The Core of the Matter

At the heart of the issue is the Commission's failure to adhere to several key principles of Regulation (EU) 2018/1725, notably regarding the transfer of personal data outside the EU/European Economic Area (EEA). The investigation, which began in May 2021, identified that the Commission did not provide appropriate safeguards for data transferred internationally, nor did it specify the types of personal data collected or the explicit purposes for their collection when utilizing Microsoft 365 services.

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EDPS's Decisive Action

Recognizing the severity of these breaches, the EDPS has imposed corrective measures on the EC, demanding compliance by December 9, 2024. These measures include:

  • Suspending all data flows from the EC's use of Microsoft 365 to Microsoft and its affiliates and sub-processors located in third countries without an EU adequacy decision.
  • Ensuring that all personal data processing complies with EU data protection laws, including specifying data types collected and processing purposes.
  • Conducting a data transfer-mapping exercise to detail personal data transfers, including recipients, third countries involved, purposes, and safeguards.

Implications for Data Privacy and Cloud Services

This situation brings to the forefront the ongoing tension between leveraging cloud services for operational efficiency and ensuring data privacy compliance. With cloud services like Microsoft 365, data often traverses global networks, potentially exposing it to jurisdictions with different privacy standards.

Learning and Moving Forward

The EC's experience is a stark reminder of the complexities inherent in cloud-based data processing and the critical importance of contractual clarity, precise data handling instructions, and stringent adherence to data protection laws. It also highlights the need for organizations to:

  • Conduct thorough data mapping exercises: Understanding exactly what data is transferred, to whom, and under what conditions is fundamental.
  • Implement robust safeguards: Ensuring data protection through technical and organizational measures is crucial, especially for international data transfers.
  • Stay informed and compliant: Regulations evolve, and staying abreast of changes while ensuring compliance is key to safeguarding data privacy.


The EDPS's findings and subsequent corrective measures imposed on the EC underscore a pivotal moment for data protection within the cloud computing realm. As we navigate through these digital clouds, the emphasis on data privacy, sovereignty, and compliance has never been more critical. This scenario serves as a valuable lesson for all organizations leveraging cloud services, highlighting the importance of vigilance, compliance, and the proactive protection of personal data in our interconnected digital world.

In the wake of these revelations, it's imperative to reflect on your organization's cloud services usage and compliance posture. For insights and guidance on navigating data protection laws while leveraging cloud technology, connect with us. Let's ensure your data handling practices are not only efficient but also fully compliant and secure.


Q: What did the EDPS find in its investigation into the EU Commission's use of Microsoft 365?

A: The European Data Protection Supervisor found that the EU Commission breached key data protection rules, including improper data transfer safeguards and lack of clarity on data collection and processing purposes.

Q: What are the corrective measures imposed by the EDPS on the EU Commission?

A: The EDPS has ordered the EU Commission to suspend all data flows to Microsoft and its affiliates outside the EU/EEA by December 9, 2024, and ensure compliance with EU data protection laws.

Q: Why is the EU Commission's use of Microsoft 365 controversial?

A: It's controversial due to the failure to secure appropriate data transfer safeguards and specify data collection types and purposes, potentially risking personal data protection.

Q: How can organizations ensure compliance with data protection laws when using cloud services?

A: Organizations should conduct data mapping exercises, implement robust data protection safeguards, and maintain up-to-date compliance with evolving data protection regulations.

Q: What does this mean for other EU institutions using Microsoft 365 or similar cloud services?

A: It serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the need for strict adherence to data protection laws, including specifying data handling practices and ensuring international data transfers are secure.

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