iWork, Office and Google Docs banned from German schools

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iWork
iWork could expose user data to U.S. authorities.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s iWork platform has been banned from German schools alongside Microsoft Office 365 and Google Docs.

Privacy regulators say that using the cloud-based services “exposes personal information about students and teachers.” They also suggest that the data might be accessed by U.S. authorities.

German schools weren’t actually using iWork apps — but they did rely on Office 365. It is now illegal to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office apps in the classroom.

The Hesse Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (HBDI) has ruled that the productivity programs are not compliant with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The primary issue the HBDI has is how these cloud-based solutions send information back to the U.S.

Office 365 given the boot by Germany

Information sent back to Microsoft servers can include content from Office apps. In some cases, email subject lines and entire sentences from Office documents are transferred, the HBDI says.

Microsoft had set up servers in Germany to process this data. But that data center was closed down in August 2018, and so the data was once again sent to the U.S.

Collection of this kind of information is a breach of the GDPR laws that came into effect just over a year ago. As a result, Office 365 is no longer welcome in German schools.

Why only schools?

You might be wondering why only schools are affected by this ruling. If Office isn’t compliant with GDPR, shouldn’t it be banned for use entirely in Germany and other EU countries?

Well, Office is GDPR compliant if users give consent to their data being processed by Microsoft. But because school children are unable to do that, it poses concerns about their protection.

“Public institutions in Germany have a special responsibility regarding the admissibility and traceability of the processing of personal data,” said the HBDI’s Michael Ronellenfitsch.

What else is there?

Only Office was targeted by this ruling — because only Office is used by German schools — but it also rules out similar cloud-based productivity services like iWork and Google Docs.

This greatly restricts the options for German schools, who will have to rely on local servers. They will be hoping that Microsoft is able to iron out the issues and make Office GDRP-compliant again.

Via: The Next Web