It’s no secret that Microsoft’s Office suite of productivity tools has consistently been popular over the years. Tools like Powerpoint are a godsend for students and corporations, whereas software such as Excel has proven invaluable to accountants and individuals who do their own taxes.

Office 365 is essentially the same thing as the normal Office suite but with one key difference: Office 365 is cloud and subscription-based, whereas Office is license-based and usually used offline on a personal or work PC or Mac.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, some German regulators — specifically, those in Hesse — have decided that Office 365’s cloud technology has the potential to violate user privacy and thus can no longer be officially used in the state’s schools.

Hesse data protection commissioner Michael Ronellenfitsch says the primary reason Office 365 in particular (as well as alternatives from Google and Apple) runs afoul of data protection issues is that the suite of tools stores the data of European children in a cloud that is exposed to and accessible by US authorities.

Ronellenfitsch insists that this is not a blanket ban on all cloud tools, noting that most such services do not “generally” pose a data protection problem for Hesse schools.

“Many schools in Hesse are already using cloud solutions,” he said in a translated statement (which may be prone to errors). “Schools can use digital applications in compliance with data protection, [as long] as the security of the data processing and the participation of the pupils is guaranteed.”

As others have noted, this is not an impossible situation for Microsoft to address — they key concern here is the storage of German student user data (specifically, those in Hessen) on overseas servers. If Microsoft were to store this data on local servers instead, these new restrictions would likely be lifted.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this article if they respond.

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