Germans banned Microsoft Office from the schools

Ruben Fields
July 18, 2019

The cloud-based online suite has been barred for use in schools in the state of Hesse after lawmakers ruled it was gathering information from users who were unable to give their consent.

That additionally appears to be true of Apple and Google as well, which means that schools can not use iCloud or Google Docs either. The cloud solutions of these providers have so far not been transparent and comprehensibly set out. The use of the office software complied with the privacy legislation as long as the data of users were stored in a German cloud.

Over the years there has been debates over the suitability of both Windows 10 and Office 365 for use in schools; and this just brings an end to the controversy. Now, the HBDI states that the European cloud may offer access to USA authorities; with no way for the German government to monitor such access; this makes use of that cloud illegal without specific consent being granted by its individual users.

The German Interior Ministry has, meanwhile, urged for more efforts to maintain the country's "digital sovereignty", with spokesman Andreas Koenen stressing that "we have to consider this again and put realistic funding behind it".

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For now, Office 365 is banned - although there is currently no talk of banning Windows despite the concerns voiced about it. This means that the schools themselves cannot consent on behalf of students, and neither can their parents, according to the HBDI.

In an announcement (in German) on the official website, the Hesse Office for Data Protection and Information Freedom explains that Microsoft Office 365 collects telemetry and sends information to servers located in the United States, making all the data available to the local government.

Microsoft said it looks forward to working with the Hesse Commissioner to better understand their concerns. In short, we're thankful the Commissioner raised these concerns and we look forward to engaging further with the Commissioner on its questions and concerns related to Microsoft's offerings.

Last year, Dutch investigators revealed that data sent by Microsoft back to the United States could comprise standard software diagnostics and user content from inside applications, including sentences from documents and email subject lines.

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