Privacy concerns prompt German officials to ban schools from using Microsoft Office 365

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While the US is concerned with China siphoning up its data, the fact that US firms might be doing the same thing has been brought into sharp relief.

Case in point – Germany’s data protection commissioner has banned schools in the country as well as other state entities from using Microsoft Office 365.

The ban has been a long time coming. In fact, discussions about the use of Office 365 in schools have been on-going since 2017. The Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI) said at the time that Office 365 could be used in schools provided that Microsoft complied with local laws surrounding data protection.

The Redmond software giant complied with this request by storing data obtained from Office 365 on European servers.

Late last year Microsoft stopped complying with those laws by discontinuing the European storage solution and this ramped up discussions in Germany.

“The crucial aspect is whether the school, as a public institution, can store personal data of children in a European cloud exposed, for example, to possible access by US authorities,” the HBDI wrote in a press statement.

When the matter boils down, German authorities cannot guarantee that data collected in Germany from Germans will remain in Germany.

“In connection with the use of Office 365 in the cloud, the consent does not provide a solution, because the security and traceability of the data processing processes are not guaranteed. Therefore the data processing is inadmissible,” the commissioner’s office wrote.

The office goes on to say that, should Microsoft once again give Germany the rights to control its data, then schools could once again make use of Office 365.

While folks might be tempted to now make use of solutions from Apple or Google, the HBDI had words of caution about those firms as well.

“What is true for Microsoft is also true for the Google and Apple cloud solutions. The cloud solutions of these providers have so far not been transparent and comprehensible set out. Therefore, it is also true that for schools the privacy-compliant use is currently not possible,” the commissioner said.

It seems like the US isn’t the only country concerned with a foreign government being able to look over its data. Who’d have thunk?

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.