Published: Thu, July 18, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

German schools ban Microsoft Office 365 amid privacy concerns

German schools ban Microsoft Office 365 amid privacy concerns

"The use of Microsoft Office 365 in schools is illegal under data protection law, as far as schools store personal data in the European cloud", said the ruling by Michael Ronellenfitsch, the Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI). Not a good one actually, and a development that could serve as a huge blow for the company's reputation, especially as it could spread to other schools in other states and even beyond the German territory.

He also said that "what is true for Microsoft is also true for the Google and Apple cloud solutions".

But since school children can not provide consent by themselves, the data processing is illegal under GDPR law.

The spokesperson added that "Microsoft has taken the USA government to court to protect customer data and that administrators of school and workplace accounts can themselves limit what information is sent back to Microsoft", according to ZDNet.

For now, Office 365 is banned - although there is currently no talk of banning Windows despite the concerns voiced about it.

"There's a strong chance that Office 365 is in your future, even if you aren't using it now", we wrote. Neither can be disabled by end users or organizations, and the content of both remains undisclosed by Microsoft despite repeated inquiries.

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The digital sovereignty of state data processing must be guaranteed.

It appears that the HBDI would rather not ditch Office outright, preferring to pressure Microsoft into compliance with German law.

Windows 10 and Office 365 have thus been ruled as non-compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as far as their use in schools goes thanks to Window 10's telemetry information which the systems sends out back to the U.S.

We routinely work to address customer concerns by clarifying our policies and data protection practices, and we look forward to working with the Hessian Commissioner to better understand their concerns. In our service terms we document the steps we take to protect customer data, and we've even successfully sued the USA government over access to customer data in Europe.

This information can include anything from regular software diagnostic data to user content from Office applications, such as email subject lines and sentences from documents where the company's translation or spellchecker tools were used.

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