France censors Microsoft and Google over privacy concerns

The Ministry of Education has just made a historic and meaningful decision. Believing that Microsoft and Google do not respect local requirements for handling personal data, the institution is now asking schools, colleges and universities to no longer implement software from these companies in their establishments. However, from high school onwards, the youngest have been used by their teachers to create their own Gmail account to interact with teachers or with other students. The measure therefore promises not only to be dangerous to introduce, but above all counterproductive given the time it will take to turn around.

Among the affected solutions, you guessed it: the Office suite is in the firing line. Including key tools such as Excel or Word, it has so far allowed students to collaborate on course files or take notes on the fly. Google via Drive, Docs, Slides or Sheets, offers more or less similar interfaces with the added bonus of particularly powerful sharing options. But this will not have been enough to convince the legislators, who at the same time take advantage of it to limit GAFAM’s hegemony and thus their dominant position. Between them, Alphabet and Microsoft weigh more than the GDP of France, which makes it possible to contextualize the concerns of the moment a little more.

Real alternatives?

Not surprisingly, therefore, French actors have not hesitated to remind the national media about their own third-party programs. Among these can be mentioned Atolia, who wants to be “only workspace your team needs“. On the menu? Task management to Trello, visios like on Zoom (with maybe a little less back doors) or even a calendar like the very popular one from Google. Attractive, at least on paper. In fact, like most of its peers, SaaS Labs, the publisher, utilizes tracking data from Google Analytics to improve its results. Similarly, the developer uses the Facebook Pixel for its marketing campaigns. Oops.

© Atolia

Among Atolia’s clients, however, we find nothing less than the National Assembly, EDF, RTL, INA, the University of Strasbourg and even Nuclear Valley, whose files are known to be very sensitive. As a reminder, in February last year, the CNIL (the police of the date in France) established Alphabet for the practice condemned “illegal” with Analytics.

Atolia, like other service providers such as Jamespot or Twake and Whaller, appoints itself as a member of Factory 8a group advertised as a more reliable alternative to Google and Microsoft.

The Framasoft choice

What if this wasn’t enough?

Not mentioned as an alternative in the statements of Fab 8, supported by the government, there is also Framasoft. Its volunteers have been providing open source, non-resale word processing and spreadsheet software for proprietary information for several years. Tools already recognized as truly independent, this time.

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