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The Danish privacy authority prohibits the use of Google Workspace in the city of Helsingør (Elsinore). According to the privacy authority, the ban applies to any local government that uses Workspace under an illegal data processing agreement (DPA).

Google Workspace consists of tools such as Gmail, Docs and Sheets. The software suite largely runs in the cloud. Depending on the settings, data is exchanged rapidly and worldwide. That’s is a risk for every European organization that processes personal data. The GDPR imposes strict conditions on the exchange of personal data.

The Danish privacy authority recently determined that the city of Elsinore violates the conditions. The local government uses Workspace in primary schools. The data processing agreement (DPA) between Google and Elsinore allows Google to exchange personal data with foreign countries for support purposes. That’s a breach of the GDPR.

Google offers Workspace in Europe under several contract variants. Not every contract complies with the AVG/GDPR. Public and private organizations can only legally use Workspace if the contract complies with the AVG/GDPR. Organizations should be reviewing whether their contract is compliant, and modifying the contract if necessary.

The city of Elsinore is using Google Workspace under an illegal data processing agreement. Elsinore is no longer allowed to use Workspace until the processing agreement is amended. The Danish privacy authority stresses that the ban can apply to local governments that use the same processing agreement as Elsinore. “The EDPS (EU’s highest privacy authority) expects other municipalities to take appropriate measures in light of the decision”, the report says.

Google Workspace in the Netherlands

Last year, the Dutch privacy authority announced a similar ban for schools and the Ministry of Justice and Security. Many Dutch schools depend on the software. They found themselves in a difficult position.

Between June and July, educational association SURF and state consultant SLM-Rijk sat down with Google to resolve the problem. The organizations came up with a step-by-step plan to allow safe Workspace usage in schools. The roadmap was published on 9 July. Schools that follow the guide can legally work with Workspace in the Netherlands.

History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Denmark will likely engage Google in a similar discussion. We expect Google and the national authorities to collaborate on a solution in the coming weeks.