STOP USING ZOOM, German DPA Warns State Government!


Stop Using Zoom

A move to ‘stop using zoom’ just emerged from a G7 and European powerhouse – Germany, this comes as the state’s data protection agency (DPA) formally issued a public warning yesterday, while stating in a press release that the Senate Chancellory’s use of the subject video conferencing tool violates the EU’s provision on General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) owing to the fact that user data is transferred to the United States for processing.

Meanwhile, Hamburg DPA’s formal warning against the use of the popular videoconferencing app concern is based on last summer landmark ruling (Schrems II) by Europe’s top court which invalidates a flagship data transfer arrangement between the United States and the European Union (Privacy Shield), however, this finds US  surveillance law to be incompatible with EU’s privacy rights. Yet, this is practically a slow pace of full manifestation of Schrems II provision.

Although, the latest warning over data transfer concerns isn’t about Germany alone but now cut across a number of European DPA’s. Reports claim a number of EU DPA’s are now investigating the use of US-based digital services due to data transfer concerns, which in some occasions noted public warning against the use of US-based mainstream tools, such as the subject tool – Zoom and Facebook while noting that adequate protection of user data could prove difficult when it’s taken over the pond.

Typically, German agencies have been viewed as one of the most proactive entities in this regard. While on the other hand, reports also noted that the EU’s data protection supervisor is now in the same wagon because the EU’s DPS is currently investigating the bloc’s use of cloud services originating from US tech giants Microsoft and Amazon over data transfer concerns.

Prior to Hamburg’s latest move (stop using zoom), a source also noted that there are negotiations between the Biden administration and the European Union which seek a replacement data transfer deal is on the table according to a source familiar with the matter. In view of this, the EU lawmakers have over time, stressed against any sudden resolution, and further added that reform of US surveillance is most likely required before a deal over ‘Privacy Shield’ will be revived. Yet, it’s also evident there are a number of Europe’s public bodies currently faced with pressure to boot US-based services in favor of compliant local alternatives.

Hamburg’s DPA made it clear that the agency’s latest step was based on the fact that Senate Chancellory public warning came after the body failed to respond as it should towards concerns raised earlier while noting that the use of Zoom by the public body does not comply with the GDPR’s requirement for a valid legal basis needed for the processing of personal data: “The documents submitted by the Senate Chancellery on the use of Zoom show that [GDPR] standards are not being adhered to”. It’s also what knowing that the latest step taken by DPA is backed by Article 58 (2) (a) of the GDPR.

Furthermore, the acting Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information ‘Ulrich Kühn’ called it “incomprehensible” because the regional body has decided to flout EU law in a bid to use Zoom while noting that there is a local alternative readily available and provided by the German company Dataport. Kühn also stated:

“Public bodies are particularly bound to comply with the law. It is, therefore, more than regrettable that such a formal step had to be taken. At the [Senate Chancellery of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg], all employees have access to a tried and tested video conference tool that is unproblematic with regard to third-country transmission. As the central service provider, Dataport also provides additional video conference systems in its own data centers. These are used successfully in other regions such as Schleswig-Holstein. It is therefore incomprehensible why the Senate Chancellery insists on an additional and legally highly problematic system”.

What’s your take on the subject – stop using zoom!