This was announced by the French Ministry for National Education and Youth, headed by Pap Ndiaye The free versions of Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace should not be used in French schools.
The reason for this statement was the reply to a letter from Philippe Latombe, member of the Mouvement démocrate party and member of the National Assembly of the French Parliament, to the Minister in August.
In the letter, Latombe noted that Microsoft’s free offering of the Office 365 suite and Teams for schools “the latest form of dumping and unfair competition‘, given that other economic actors are severely disadvantaged and represents a sovereignty problemdue to the localization of personal data in an American cloud and the extraterritorial nature of American law.
The parliamentarian had also emphasized that Microsoft has not won any tenders to offer the Office 365 suiteand that the tender was never called anyway.
Microsoft and Google free services should not be used in French schools
The Ministry only replied to Latombe’s letter last week. Said, that Free service offers are in principle excluded from the scope of public procurementalthough in the case of Microsoft, users may be encouraged to use these tools to subsequently subscribe to the paid version of the offer.
However, this indirect benefit was not considered capable of making the Microsoft service ‘onerous’, a condition for which the tendering obligation would be triggered.
But then the response from the Department of Education brought up a note from the Department of Business and Finance stating that “In any case, in the interests of good administration, public authorities ensure that the subject matter of such contracts is limited, their duration and that they do not grant exclusivity to the economic operator, so that other competitors can benefit from the consequent advantages, especially in terms of image“.
Then a notice from the Interministerial Directorate for Digital Affairs (DINUM) was reported last September, stating that the Microsoft Office 365 suite does not meet the “cloud at the centre” (Cloude au centre) doctrine desired by the French government respects , and with which the state encourages all public actors to use the potential of the cloud to develop a new generation of digital services, while protecting the data of French companies and citizens.
This “cloud in focus” doctrine also respects the “Schrems II” judgment of the EU Court of Justice, which questioned the cross-border exchange of European data and initially only led to a “fundamental agreement” between the EU and the USA on data transfer between the two regions.
Faced with this evidence, the French Ministry of Education recalled that it asked for it in October 2021 Block any distribution of Microsoft Office 365 suite and also Google Workspace because they violate GDPR.
However, it did not offer a direct solution as it is the local authorities linked to the schools that are responsible for acquiring and maintaining the infrastructure and equipment, including the computers and software, that are made available to them.
In practice, the French Ministry of Education has expressed a negative opinion on the free use of Office 365 and Google Workspace in schools, but local authorities must provide schools with digital workplace solutions that respect the principles of the GDPR.
What Microsoft and Google are planning for European user data management
Microsoft promised the EU Data Boundary in December 2021, which will allow European users to process and store all their data in the EU by the end of 2022.
In September last year, Google also took a similar initiative, which in May this year gave birth to the European Advisory Board, an advisory body with the aim of ensuring that Google’s products and services comply with European requirements.