The French Ministry of Education has banned the use of the free Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace offerings in schools. The reason for this are data protection concerns: the educational offerings are not in line with either the French IT strategy or European law. The latter argument in particular would also make the offers illegal in this country.
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French Education Minister Pap Ndiaye responded to a question from MP Philippe Latombe, who actually wanted to inquire about a distortion of competition caused by the free offers for schoolchildren by the industry giants. That reports the French IT news portal “Siecle Digital”. Ndiaye therefore said that the offers are not compatible with the GDPR and the Schrems II judgment, nor with the French doctrine of “cloud in the center”. The latter is part of the “Dinum”, the French directive for the use of IT in public administration. Instead, Ndiaye writes, educational institutions should use collaborative suites from Europe “that host the data within the European Union and do not transfer it to the United States.”
Free software offers for schools
With Office 365 Education and Workspace for Education, Microsoft and Google each offer free variants of their Office software packages for educational institutions and students. The concerns of the French Ministry of Education apparently relate primarily to these free offers and not to the paid versions of the software. The free offers do not correspond to the SecNumCloud qualification, a verification of the French National Cybersecurity Agency (ANSSI) for commercial cloud products.
Efforts are also being made in this country to ban the Microsoft 365 Office package from schools, most recently in Baden-Württemberg, for example.