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Microsoft agrees to ‘cloud’ changes for schools

Cloud computing is on the increase at Swiss companies, in public administration and also at schools Reuters

Swiss schools may soon start using a Microsoft cloud-computing service after a deal was sealed between the tech giant and Swiss officials and appropriate changes made to ensure adherence to strict data protection guidelines.

This content was published on March 20, 2014 - 11:22
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Cloud computing involves a large number of computers connected through a communication network, usually the internet.

 

Privatim, the Swiss Association of Privacy Groups, reported that Microsoft had been convinced to adapt its contract details to enable Microsoft Office 365 to be used by Swiss schools.

Responsibilities have been clearly defined with adequate control mechanisms, and data must be stored in Europe, Privatim said. In the event of legal differences, Swiss law must apply.

Privatim president Bruno Baeriswyl, the data protection officer for canton Zurich, told the Swiss News Agency that this development was significant as it sent a signal that a global standard solution was possible for cloud-computing privacy issues.

He hoped other providers of cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive might follow suit with similar accords.

Privacy concerns

Cloud computing is on the increase at Swiss companies, in public administration and also at schools because it offers economic and security benefits. As a result, organisations no longer store data on their own networks but rent space from a provider of cloud services.

But privacy groups are concerned by the lack of control over personal data being processed in the cloud and insufficient information regarding how, where and by whom the data is being processed and sub-processed. Cloud computing typically involves an outsourcing chain consisting of multiple processors and sub-processors.

Last year Privatim issued cloud computing guidelines for schools because the association was concerned about violations.

In May, the Swiss cabinet highlighted the risks involved with cloud services. In an answer to a parliamentary motion, it wrote that the decentralised storage of data created “great opportunities” for surveillance.

In August, data protection officers warned schools in the cantons of Lucerne and Solothurn about the dangers of programmes like Microsoft Office 365, because they feared that the providers would use the names and addresses of students who use the cloud to access the school’s network from their homes. Microsoft denied any such claims.

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