Microsoft and Google in the sights of national education

The government confirms the end of the omnipresence of Google and Microsoft tools in French national schools. Nowadays, the protection of personal data is at the heart of all concerns and the school is not spared. Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace offerings that do not comply with the GDPR should therefore be removed from classes. Both cannot guarantee that the personal data of our pupils and students are stored only in the European zone.

Microsoft and Google targeted

For the moment, no deadline has been established. But this request is not new. The instruction was already given, about a year ago, but went completely unnoticed at that time. The Covid-19 crisis has greatly accelerated and increased the presence of digital technology in the classroom. The latter also highlighted the significant omnipresence of large private companies on the other side of the Atlantic, such as Microsoft and Google, within the education system.

Many teachers found themselves (during the first confinement) without any appropriate working tools. No clear instructions had been given vis-à-vis the digital. Everyone had to manage their class, their lessons, with the means at hand. Many teachers have turned to American service companies like Google Drive or Zoom.

Meanwhile at the ministry…

In the official journal of Tuesday, November 15, it was officially announced thediscontinuation of Office 365 and Google deployment within national education. Several things are reproached to them. First, and most importantly, is the non-compliance with the rules dictated by the GDPR. Secondly, Microsoft’s free offer would be unfair competition. No call for tenders has been launched for free offers, nothing abnormal so far, but the presence of their software in schools would directly encourage the use of these products outside the school framework, since discovered, known and already mastered by young users on school benches. This free approach penalizes the other players on the market. Last but not least: the location of personal data. These are stored on an American cloud, therefore subject to the American CloudAct…

Please note that the ministry stressed that “the acquisition and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment, including computer hardware and software provided for their commissioning, necessary for teaching and exchanges between members of the educational community are at [leur]load” implied the regions for the high schools, the departments for the colleges and the local authorities for the schools.

For example, local authorities offer digital work environment (ENT) solutions to establishments in terms of communication and collaboration while respecting the rules of the GDPR and digital sovereignty. This makes it possible to eliminate US collaborative offers that are not immune to extraterritorial law.

In Europe…

For some time now, several countries have taken the decision to no longer use Google and Microsoft products in their schools. In order to protect the privacy and personal data of pupils and students in their countries. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany have completely stopped using Google’s email and cloud services. No personal data should be stored and processed on Microsoft, Google or Apple servers.

Danish, Dutch and German privacy watchdogs hope to pressure US companies to enforce EU privacy regulations. But, a real alternative to Microsoft, Google and Apple, would be much better…

The instructions must be followed in order to best protect the privacy and personal data of our children. The choice of software and hardware remains with the respective local authorities. On the other hand, the ministry does not give any advice in order to put in place alternatives.

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