German schools ban Microsoft Office 365 because of privacy concerns

Office 365

The German state of Hesse has banned schools from using Microsoft Office 365 because it fears the software opens up student and teachers' private information to the risk of "potential access by US authorities".

The Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI) believes that Office 365 is in contravention of GDPR legislation, and also expressed concerns about the collection of telemetry data by Windows 10.

The commissioner voices concerns that data stored in the cloud through Office 365 could be access by US authorities. The ruling says that "public institutions in Germany have a special responsibility regarding the admissibility and traceability of the processing of personal data" -- something that cannot be guaranteed with Office 365.

In a press release, the commissioner explains further concerns:

The digital sovereignty of state data processing must be guaranteed. In addition, there is another issue that the Federal Office for Information Security has pointed out to the public in autumn 2018. With the use of the Windows 10 operating system, a wealth of telemetry data is transmitted to Microsoft, whose content has not been finally clarified despite repeated inquiries at Microsoft. Such data is also transmitted when using Office 365.

For now, Office 365 is banned -- although there is currently no talk of banning Windows despite the concerns voiced about it. The HBDI would like to work with Microsoft to produce a "privacy-compliant solution", and says that many of the same concerns apply to cloud products from Apple and Google.

The HBDI says that in the meantime, "schools can use other tools such as on-premise licenses on local systems".

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