France says non to Office 365 and Google Workspace in school

Hey, teacher, leave those apps alone

The French minister of national education and youth has said that free versions of Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace should not be used in schools – a position that reflects ongoing European concerns about cloud data sovereignty, competition, and privacy rules.

In August, Philippe Latombe, a member of the French National Assembly, advised [PDF] Pap Ndiaye, the minister of national education, that the free version of Microsoft Office 365, while appealing, amounts to a form of illegal dumping. He asked the education minister what he intends to do, given the data sovereignty issues involved with storing personal data in an American cloud service.

Last week, the Ministry of National Education published a written reply to confirm that French public procurement contracts require "consideration" – payment.

"Free service offers are therefore, in principle, excluded from the scope of public procurement," the Ministry statement says, and minister Ndiaye has reportedly confirmed this position.

This applies to other free offerings like Google Workspace for Education. Paid versions of these cloud services might be an option if they hadn't already been disallowed based on worries about data safety.

French authorities consider Microsoft and Google cloud services that store data in the US to be non-compliant with European data regulations like GDPR and with "Schrems II" – a 2020 ruling [PDF] from the Court of Justice of the European Union governing data sharing across borders.

The "Schrems II" decision invalidated the US-EU Privacy Shield Agreement because the CJEU found that US law fell short of the privacy standards in Europe.

On September 15, 2021, Nadi Bou Hanna, director of DINUM, France's interministerial digital department, said in a letter that French government agencies considering cloud services to replace office and messaging products on government servers like Exchange should not use Office 365 [PDF] because it does not comply with France's "Cloud at the Center" initiative.

Citing the position of DINUM, the prime minister's "Cloud at the Center" policy, and a May 2021 note from the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL) advising higher education institutions to use GDPR-respecting cloud collaboration services, the Ministry of Education in October 2021 said it advised academies to avoid any deployment of Office 365 or Google Workspace.

German data protection authorities came to a similar conclusion in 2019 when they disallowed Microsoft Office 365 in classrooms in the state of Hessen.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Microsoft declined to comment. However, the company in July announced Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty, a service that will allow public sector customers to use Microsoft cloud services in a way that's consistent with policies.

Microsoft also plans to deploy its EU Data Boundary, though which EU customer data can be processed in compliance with data regulations, by the end of 2022. And Google last year undertook a similar initiative to meet EU data protection demands.

Last month, president Biden signed an executive order directing US agencies to implement the Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, announced in March.

The EU now has to take steps to adopt the rules, which could take some time. Once that happens, data transfers between the US and the EU should become more manageable. And Microsoft and Google may find it easier to win European government cloud contracts. ®

Send us news

Google warns about commercial Heliconia spyware hitting Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Defender

Meanwhile NSO faces new lawsuit over Pegasus flying onto journalists' phones

Google and Microsoft add more renewable energy for datacenters

Both announce green power purchase agreements for UK and Irish DCs as European worries over power continue

Exchange Online and Microsoft Teams went down in APAC because Microsoft broke itself

Legacy process overwhelmed infrastructure, brought ten hours of trouble

SQL Server license prices rise ten percent as version 2022 debuts

Azure SQL pay-as-you-go rate is the only rate that won't change, and it was already expensive

UK competition watchdog investigates Apple and Google 'stranglehold' over the mobile market

Apple doesn't want to bite

Android users in 12 US states cleared to sue Google Play

Millions of people who bought apps since 2016 eligible for payout

NOAA, Microsoft partner to put climate models in the clouds

Don't worry, Redmond hasn't gotten its hands on the agency's coffers yet

Investor tells Google: Cut costs now and stop paying staff so much

Also wants Alphabet to slash losses in Waymo division, buy back shares, lots of them

Eat up, Windows 11 users – this is your last non-security preview update for the year

'Tis the season for plugging holes and bolstering security

Someone has to say it: Voice assistants are not doing it for big tech

Alexa, how does Amazon decide when the grand plan for conversational commerce has failed?

After 47 years, Microsoft issues first sexual harassment and gender report

Faint praise: Windows giant tries to follow best practices and wants to improve

Google Health licenses its AI breast cancer screening tool to a medical biz

iCAD will have five years to bring a product to market