Microsoft Surface in Schools

It’s hard to argue with German authorities when their people’s privacy is concerned. On many occasions, Germany has valued its people’s rights on the Internet over striking deals with multinational data-sucking corporations.

The German privacy watchdog has now banned Microsoft Office 365 in the state of Hesse over privacy concerns. In its statement, HBDI (Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information) also targeted Apple and Google for not following the privacy regulations established for German schools.

What is true for Microsoft is also true for the Google and Apple cloud solutions. The cloud solutions of these providers have so far not been transparent and comprehensibly described. Therefore, it is also true that for schools the privacy-compliant use [of these alternatives] is currently not possible.

Microsoft isn’t innocent

In 2017, a small window of opportunity was opened to Microsoft. HBDI allowed Office 365 in German schools, provided that all users’ data remain in the country. To ensure that, a third party German data trustee, Deutsche Telekom, monitored the data stored in Microsoft data centers in Germany.

A year later, Microsoft killed the “data trustee” model and closed its German cloud data center. German schools, with little to no information, shifted their accounts to the European cloud.

After multiple warnings from HBDI, the schools continued to work in Office 365. Last week Hesse’s data protection commissioner, Michael Ronellenfitsch, warned that Microsoft might be sharing student data with the United States.

German privacy watchdog takes a stand

According to HDBI, the European cloud used by Microsoft might be sending data to US authorities. While the HDBI claims seem to be a little far fetched, no one knows the real story. This is exactly what frightens HDBI the most.

Currently, Germany has no way of monitoring data stored in the clouds. On account of this, HDBI believes that the usage of Office 365 is illegal without being given specific consent to each individual.

Apart from this, the German authority is unsatisfied with Windows 10’s telemetry. HBDI claims that there is no way of disabling the data upload and looking at the stored data. The watchdog also believes that consent won’t be enough because it isn’t known what data is being shared with Microsoft.

At present, Microsoft has not come up with a solution; however, the situation might force the company to reconsider the Data Trustee model. Following many news reports, Microsoft said, “We look forward to working with the Hessian Commissioner to better understand their concerns.”

Meanwhile, HBDI has asked schools to use other tools such as on-premise licenses on local systems.

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