Productivity suites, such as Office 365, The Google Docs or the iWork, are a constant presence in teaching institutions (the first two, mainly). What to do, then, when the entire educational network in a locality bans these products? That is the question that the state of Hesse, at Germany, you will have to answer.
As the TNW, the Hesse Commission for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI) determined that the world’s top three productivity suites do not comply with the rules of the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union. As a result, state schools will no longer be able to use the applications and services on these three platforms – at least until they make a major change.
Basically, the problem lies in the information sent by applications to servers in the United States, which can range from software diagnostic reports to personal user information, such as phrases written in a word processor and the subject of an email (which can be processed by American companies for translation or spelling correction tools).
The GDPR does not ban this type of behavior per se, but requires users of productivity platforms to expressly agree to send their data to foreign servers. As underage students have not yet reached the age of consent to authorize such sending, processing of their data is considered illegal by the European Union.
Microsoft had a strategy to circumvent the imbroglio: until last year, all information processed by Office 365 in Germany was sent to a data center located in the country itself, which made the suite’s operations regularized there. The facility, however, was decommissioned in August 2018 and the company resumed transmitting the data to its servers in the U.S. – which was the trigger for this new determination of the state of Hesse.
It is worth noting that, in practice, Google and Apple will not be affected for that decision, as schools in Hesse use only the Office 365 suite for academic purposes. The event, however, can generate concern for companies because it can be used as a mirror for other locations in Europe to apply the same logic to their educational policies – which would be a bucket of cold water, for example, in the educational expansion of Apple.
It is unclear which direction Hesse schools will take now, but the state has suggested that institutions exchange their Office 365 subscriptions for separate licenses from the Microsoft productivity suite, which run only on the school’s own computers and do not require connection to foreign servers . The cost of this transition remains to be seen.