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Microsoft is changing how it handles device diagnostic data to keep EU sweet

Data sovereignty – the Windows maker has heard of it

Microsoft is continuing to change how diagnostic data from Windows devices is processed and controlled to keep its place in the European market amid stringent privacy and security regulations.

IT administrators enrolling devices in the Windows diagnostic data processor configuration option had been able to use a range of policies for each system, such as allowing for a commercial data pipeline and for desktop analytics processing.

As part of a larger effort announced in May 2021 to enable European entities to process and store their data in Europe, the software giant is ending the use of policies to configure the processor option and instead is offering a configuration for an entire organization based on Azure Active Directory to set Microsoft's role in processing data.

"We're making this change to help ensure the diagnostic data for all devices in an organization is processed in a consistent way, and in the same geographic region," the company wrote.

Two years ago, Brad Smith, Microsoft's vice chair and president, said that the company would ensure European companies using its cloud services – not only Azure, but also Microsoft 365 and Dynamics 365 – could keep all their data within European Union borders. The diagnostic data change started in Windows preview builds and is now reaching latest versions of the operating systems.

In 2018, after years of debate and warnings, the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which set strict rules for protecting data from Europe or EU citizens and threatened heavy fines for companies that violated those rules.

Windows devices with the diagnostic data tool turned and connected to an Azure AD tenant with a billing address in the EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland – will see the diagnostic data automatically configured for the processor option and the data will be processed in Europe.

That means, in compliance terms, that Microsoft will process the Windows diagnostic data but the organization will control it, with their IT admins being the ones responding to their end users' data questions.

If they don't sign up for any of the services, Microsoft not only will be the data processor, but also the controller.

Microsoft is pushing enterprises to embrace the changes. The plan is rolling out in phases, with it already coming via the non-security preview release late last month for Windows 10 versions 20H2, 21H2, and 22H2, and Windows 11 21H2 and 22H2. Redmond said it will also be included in the upcoming security update this month and future security updates for the Windows versions. ®

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