French schools asked not to use Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace

3 days ago

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Free versions of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace violate European privacy rules, according to French education minister Pap Ndiaye.

The French ministry of national education has urged schools in the country to stop using free versions of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace amid privacy concerns.

Education minister Pap Ndiaye told education institutions that the free versions of these collaborative working apps are not compliant with GDPR and the Schrems II EU court ruling from 2020.

Schrems II struck down Privacy Shield, the data privacy tool that allowed for the transfer of European data to US companies. It said transfers of personal data from the EU could only take place if there is sufficient level of protection.

The move in France came in response to a question from French politician Philippe Latombe. He told Ndiaye that use of the free version of Microsoft 365 is tantamount to illegal dumping, penalises other tech players and raises concerns about data sovereignty, and asked what the ministry’s plans were around these concerns.

Ndiaye’s office published a response to the question, saying that public procurement contracts requirement payment – rendering free services such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace invalid in the scope of public procurement.

The ministry confirmed it advised French schools to avoid using free services in October 2021 – when it found the offerings to be incompatible with the government’s ‘cloud at the centre’ policy based on Schrems II and the opinion of France’s data protection watchdog with regards to GDPR.

While no data-sharing deal has been struck between the EU and US since Privacy Shield was struck down, a new framework for transatlantic data transfers and storage was agreed in principle in March.

The new deal will “enable predictable and trustworthy EU-US data flows, balancing security, the right to privacy and data protection,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said at the time.

France is not the first country to advise against using Microsoft 365 in schools. In 2019, Germany banned the software after deciding the free version transfers and stores EU data in US data centres, violating privacy rules.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com