Microsoft has recently released its Family Safety app, which was announced back in March 2020. The release of this app was a part of their rebranding efforts to transform Office 365 into Microsoft 365.
As significant as this release might have been for the company, it has caused some controversy among its users. The app allows families to increase their physical and online safety.
However, many have interpreted the app differently — as an intrusion to privacy and a cause for debate. While the Family Safety app’s main goal is to help protect family members, the idea behind it sounds much better in theory than in practice.
There are some pros and cons of using the new Microsoft release. It is up to you to decide whether the features available in this app are useful or whether they are crossing the privacy line. Let’s take a closer look.
The Pros of the Family Safety App
The Family Safety app offers features such as:
- activity reporting,
- screen time limits,
- content control,
- location tracking.
From a security point of view, all these features can come in handy in critical situations. For instance, an app like this can allow parents to check their child’s location at any time. It could decrease the number of missing children cases across the US.
The Family Safety app offers full transparency regarding the amount of time family members are spending online, as well as their web history and most searched sites. Therefore, any member of the family can check what others are doing on their device.
Sure, it does sound like a significant privacy concern. But it is also a great feature for parents trying to keep their children safe online.
It is essential to stay in control when it comes to allowing younger children to use electronic devices and the internet.
With games, video content, and forums available to anyone, it is easy to get carried away and spend too much time using devices. This can leave negative consequences, especially performance at school and social behavior. Not to mention cyberbullying and other dangers lurking online.
Therefore, Microsoft’s Family Safety app is beneficial in terms of keeping children safe online. It will help parents teach their children positive habits in the digital world, control their screen time and content consumption to avoid any negative influences.
The only question is, when does controlling the child’s online activities become intrusion of privacy?
The Cons of the Family Safety App
This is the part where we get to the privacy concerns related to Microsoft’s Family Safety app. All the features that might be useful for parents trying to protect their child are also the main cause of privacy concerns regarding this app.
For example, all family members connected to the app will have their web history exposed. Everyone in their household will have access to their screen time, most recently searched sites, and even their location.
Besides the internal privacy concern, we must also consider potential external threats. Microsoft was quite open about their intentions with the app. They have confirmed that no users’ data is going to be publicly exposed or sold to third-parties at any point.
However, this does not eliminate cybersecurity threats and the possibility of data breaches. They could reveal your or your kids’ location and IP address to strangers. For those wondering what my IP is (https://nordvpn.com/what-is-my-ip/), it is a unique address each device has that can pinpoint your approximate physical location.
To sum up, Microsoft’s new Family Safety app has been met with both positive and negative criticism.
It can serve as a handy tool for keeping children safe online. But in the real world, its privacy-invading features are questionable. As long as there are no external threats to users’ data, they should be able to decide whether an app of this kind is suitable for their household.
Microsoft has made it clear — they don’t plan on selling users’ data. It is up to the users to decide whether they are willing to give up on privacy, even if it is only between their family members.