[German]The French Ministry of Education has banned the use of free office solutions with US cloud connections such as Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace in French schools. The reason given for this is data protection concerns, as the offerings in question are not in line with France's IT strategy and violate EU law.
In France, education is managed centrally by the Ministry of Education, whereas in Germany, education is a matter for the federal states. This can lead to strong decisions with regard to IT equipment in schools. Decisions made by the French Ministry of Education have an effect on all educational institutions in France.
Google and Microsoft are trying to gain a foothold in the education sector via free solutions. To this end, Microsoft is giving away its Microsoft 365 in an education version free of charge to schools and students. Google Workspace has a similar approach. The products are free, but rely on the cloud.
A deciscion against the US cloud
The French Ministry of Education has just made a decision regarding the free education editions of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, as the French media SiecleDigital reported within the article Le ministre de l'Éducation nationale ne veut pas de Microsoft Office 365 ni de Google Workspace.
According to the report, the French Minister of Education does not want Microsoft Office 365 or Google Workspace to be used in French schools. According to Minister Pap NDiaye, these two solutions do not meet current requirements. Namely: the GDPR, the Schrems II ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Dinum circular on the "Cloud in the center". The Dinum Circular arguably regulates the use of IT solutions in the administration via a directive.
Question from a member of parliament obout the cloud
This became known after a request from MP Philippe Latombe to the Ministry of Education. The MP had approached Pap NDiaye's ministry to find out whether Microsoft's free offer in schools "does not amount to a form of dumping and unfair competition". This is because the use of the free software does not require a tender and, according to the MP, touches on issues of national sovereignty. The SiecleDigital medium quotes here from the minister's reply to the MP.
The Ministry of Education stated in its response, that the Prime Minister's directive No. 6282-SG on the "Cloud at the Center" Doctrine calls on the various ministers to ensure that commercial cloud offerings have the SecNumCloud qualification or an equivalent European qualification.###
This SecNumCloud qualification or equivalent European qualification is not present in the free Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace offerings, it says. According to SiecleDigital, the French data protection authority CNIL (Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) recommends that schools use collaborative suites offered by providers that are governed exclusively by European law and "that host data within the European Union and do not transfer it to the United States."
The basis is the Dinum circular
According to the ministry response, the Dinum Circular of 2021 "prohibits the use of Office 365 in the French authorities." The whole thing is based on a decision by the interministerial director for the digitization of the state, which stepped in last year to protect the "sensitive data" held by several public officials. The circular, published in 2021, states that the data can no longer be hosted on Microsoft 365 cloud services to protect it from a possible security breach or even misuse by U.S. intelligence agencies.
According to the report, the Ministry of Education's decision also takes into account the so-called "Schrems II" ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) from 2020, which declares the data protection agreement with the U.S. (transatlantic framework for the transfer of personal data of European users to the U.S.) invalid. See my article European Court cancels EU-US "Privacy Shield". There is currently no successor agreement (see Data protection commissioner of Baden-Württemberg (Germany) considers US President Biden's Executive Order for a data protection agreement "Privacy Shield 2.0" with European Union as insufficient).
Safe Harbor: EuGH erklärt Abkommen für ungültig
European Court cancels EU-US "Privacy Shield"
Preliminary agreement between EU and US on the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework
US President Biden signs Executive Order for "Privacy Shield 2.0" data protection agreement
Data protection commissioner of Baden-Württemberg (Germany) considers US President Biden's Executive Order for a data protection agreement "Privacy Shield 2.0" with European Union as insufficient
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