Tuesday 05 July 2022

Privacy watchdog recommends schools, ministries ditch Google: FD

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Privacy watchdog Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens has recommended the justice ministry, schools and universities stop using Google services, such as email and cloud storage, because they don’t comply with European privacy laws, according to confidential documents in the possession of the Financieele Dagblad.

The AP criticism of the American software giant was ‘unusually strongly worded’, the paper said.

The watchdog said that the use of Google services, such as Gmail, Meet, Sheets, Docs and Classroom were widely used but that schools and universities do not know how, where and to what purpose the personal data of pupils and students is processed. This makes it ‘unlawful’, the paper quotes the AP as saying.

Dutch ministers made similar comments in March.

The justice ministry, which had been considering the use of Google services and had entered negotiations with the company had asked the AP for advice and were told not to go ahead because of ‘fundamental questions which needed to be answered first,’ the FD quoted one of the documents as saying.

The news comes in the wake of national and European concerns over the growing influence of American software companies and its privacy implications.

Experts told the FD that, based on the recommendations, not only the justice and education ministries may ditch Google but all other departments as well.

The developments will be watched with great interest by the other EU members, privacy exper Paul Breitbarth told the paper. ‘A regional monitoring body in Germany reached a similar conclusion [ as the AP] earlier,’ he said.

Google’s schools software misses privacy safeguards, Dutch ministers say

The AP recommendations will put schools in a difficult position as primary schools and, for instance Groningen University, are using Google software for parents meetings, student results records, online teaching and mail traffic.

A government spokesman told the paper the parties concerned are in talks with Google ‘urging them to consider their social responsibility and remove the risks and guarantee the privacy of pupils and students so schools can continue to use the products safely’.

Google, which is trying to increase its stake in the government services market, said it ‘appreciated’ the AP’s feedback and expected a quick solution to the problem. Google is committed to European privacy law, a spokesperson said.

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