RUG reduces additional Google services to ensure your privacy

The UG has formalised the new agreement with Google to improve data protection and privacy. According to the agreement, there will be restrictions on Google Workspace functionalities and stricter controls on Google core applications.

The Dutch Personal Data Authority stated on May 31 that Google’s way of handling data was neither secure nor fair and that unless improvements were made, Dutch educational institutions should ban Google starting this academic year.

On July 8 the educational institutions and IT-organisation SURF reached an agreement with Google on measures aimed at addressing privacy risks with Google Workspace for Education. During the past few months, the UG worked out on the consequences and was able to formalise the results last week.

High privacy risks

‘We are pleased with the outcome’, says Sander van Lien with the CIT. ‘We were always confident that the negotiations would turn out in such a way that all high privacy risks would be mitigated.’ 

In detail, this processing agreement leads to technical and contractual adjustments both for the UG and Google. Google Workspace consists of two parts: the core applications and the additional services. The first part corresponds to Gmail, Drive (Docs, Sheets and Slides), and tools like Google Meet, Calendar, Tasks and so on (see complete list on myuniversity). According to the new agreement Google can now only collect and use personal data that are necessary to provide the core applications to the UG.

In terms of additional services, there will be a substantial reduction of the tools that are automatically linked to UG accounts. Some services will be disconnected and will be unavailable from university accounts. For example, it is no longer possible to subscribe to YouTube channels through the university account, or, while it is still possible to navigate without a login, it is not possible anymore to create one’s own map on Google Maps.

Unlink

‘Currently, we are taking stock of the apps usage and then carefully deciding whether or not to unlink the app from the UG account’, adds Van Lien.

Van Lien reassures however that such reductions will be made taking everything into consideration. ‘We reduced the number of additional services linked to the UG account because they are not covered by the contract with Google. However, we do take great care in doing this as some additional services are used in education and research.’   

For those who work with the additional services, the CIT provides a brief technical guide to solve eventual issues. CIT also affirms that more information on possible alternatives and the planning will be shared shortly, including instructions to users on personalisation account settings via ‘Activity controls’ and the use of Google services.

Van Lien also explains that along with the agreement, there are further measures that will be implemented: ‘The UG will promote awareness about the use of alternatives to Google products that are not covered by the agreement, as well as awareness about the limited use of UG Google account as login to third party applications and websites.’

Monitoring

Moreover, he confirms that there will be a continuous monitoring of the risks in collaboration with SURF and SLM Rijk, by means of audits of the agreements, among other things.

UG also initiated a project to examine the best suited digital environment for the university in the long term. To begin, a survey will be distributed among employees in the coming weeks.

Van Lien does not deny that at the end of the project, the UG might turn its back on Google. ‘It is currently impossible to say what the outcome will be. There are several possibilities that are all being investigated. An important starting point is a stable and reliable environment for the entire university, both students and staff, that meets requirements in the areas of security, privacy, and so forth.’

The project also looks at functionality, compatibility with external parties, costs and so on. ‘The outcome of the project is a recommendation that will be used for future decision-making,’ he concludes.

Nederlands

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