STUDENTS IN PARTS of Germany have been banned from using Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite, following concerns over privacy.
When we say ‘banned’ we don’t mean detention for anyone that does, we’re talking illegal, proper illegal.
The central state of Hesse has ruled that using the cloud-based version of the service opens children up to potential surveillance by US officials.
It’s not a new concern, in fact, Germany has been wrestling with the Microsoft question for years. Look at Munich, which completely dispensed with Microsoft, before it was forced to come crawling back.
Resistance to change and the cost of maintaining a Linux distro were both cited as reasons for the rollback.
The issue isn’t the telemetry per se – though the German attitude to privacy doesn’t make that sit particularly well. It’s the level of telemetry, which according to research that came out last year, could include things like lines of text and email subject lines.
That kind of invasion is, according to the investigators, completely at odds with GDPR, for a start. At the core of GDPR is consent, and the argument under German law is that minors aren’t able to give that consent.
Microsoft had previously attempted to quell fears by opening a cloud region within Germany so all the data was contained, but that was closed last summer, putting users right back where they started.
At the moment, the ruling only applies to schools, but the general grumbling in the region about Microsoft’s access to data could see it stretch to government departments. After all, you probably don’t want information about your dispute over the bins, or your divorce being shared with Microsoft.
At present, the advice is to use an alternative ‘Office’ product that stores on-premise. By that argument, Microsoft Office 2019 would be fine, and given that the general feeling is that Microsoft really would rather that didn’t exist, that’s sure to go down well in Redmond.