The Danish supervisory authority has briefly banned the use of Google Chromebooks and the Google Workspace learning platform in general education schools. The reason: The technology company transmits data on the devices to the USA without the users’ consent.

Teaching in Denmark’s general education schools will have to be restructured in the future. In its decision of July 14, 2022, the Danish data protection supervisory authority Datatilsynet banned the use of Google products – in particular Chromebooks. This affects all schools that use Google’s learning platform, or around half of all municipalities across Denmark.

Possible breach of data protection regulation

School lessons in Danish schools have for many years been based on digital content, most of which is accessed via Google Chromebook or Google Workspace. In 2021, Datatilsynet commissioned the Danish municipality of Helsingør to conduct a risk assessment. This was to assess the extent to which students’ and teachers’ personal data could be used by Google in breach of contract – for marketing purposes, for example. Although the risk of such third-party use was rated as low, remote access by Google to the school’s computers could not be ruled out with certainty.

Consequences for the whole of Denmark likely

For the Danish data protection supervisory authority, this was reason enough to ban the use of Chromebooks and Google Workspace. In doing so, Datatilsynet refers to the ruling in the so-called Schrems II case, which considers the transfer of personal data between Europe and the USA to be permissible only under certain conditions. Conditions that the municipality of Helsingør did not sufficiently fulfill, according to the authority’s assessment. It had to suspend any transfer of data to the U.S., deactivate users and their rights, and delete data already transferred, the decision says. For now, this only affects Elsinore. However, the ban is expected to be extended to all Danish municipalities that use corresponding Google systems.

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