The French ministry of education has urged schools in the country to stop using free versions of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace following privacy concerns.
A new decision from the Schrems II EU court has declared that free versions of collaborative working apps are not compliant with GDPR and its requirements. Education minister Pap Ndiaye has told education institutions this information for use in the future.
The Schrems II decision for the European court said that the Privacy Shield, a data privacy tool that allowed for the transfer of personal data from the EU to U.S. companies, was invalid because there is not a sufficient level of protection related to digital privacy in the U.S.
Philippe Latombe, a French politician, asked Ndiaye to comment on the legality of Microsoft 365’s free tier. He said that its use was tantamount to dumping, and that it penalized other technology companies, raising concerns about data sovereignty. The ministry had plans around these concerns, according to Ndiaye.
Jean Ndiaye, office manager at a French law firm, responded to the question, saying that public procurement contracts require payment – meaning free services such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are invalid in the scope of public procurement.
The French Ministry confirmed that it advised schools to avoid free services in October 2021. It found the offerings to be incompatible with the government’s “cloud at the centre” policy and said that the opinion of France’s data protection agency regarding GDPR made it clear what data transfers would be prohibited.
Privacy Shield was the framework for transatlantic data transfers and storage that links the EU and US .. until it was recently struck down by a court ruling.
The new deal will “enable predictable and trustworthy EU-US data flows,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said when the agreement went into effect.
The German government recently banned Microsoft 365 from schools after deciding that the free version transfers and stores European data in US data centers – a violation of privacy rules.
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