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Berlin Data Protection Commissioner: Don’t leave schools alone during video conferences

Last updated on March 9, 2021

Many schools still rely on services for video conferencing that are contrary to data protection laws. The legislator should act, but also receives praise. The digital situation in schools has not improved since the spring.
(Picture: Jan Vasek/Pixabay) Berlin’s data protection commissioner Maja Smoltczyk sees continuing deficits in the use of digital learning aids in line with data protection regulations in the corona crisis. The situation at many schools has not improved since the spring, declared Smoltczyk on 4 December. Often digital learning tools are still being used, which are not compatible with current data protection law. This applies, for example, to services for video conferences or e-learning.

“The Senate Administration for Education still lacks clear guidelines for the selection of digital learning materials,” criticised Smoltczyk. “This is a technically and legally complex task that goes far beyond pedagogical considerations and should therefore no longer be imposed on school administrators and teachers.”

The Senate has the duty to evaluate corresponding offers and make a preselection suitable for use in Berlin schools. The schools should no longer be left alone in this process. “The large number of enquiries I have received shows me that school administrators and teachers are very concerned about using teaching and learning materials for their lessons that comply with data protection regulations,” said Smoltczyk. In July, the Data Protection Agency published an analysis >/a> in which it examined whether various video conferencing services could be used in a legally compliant manner. In the process, the leading video conference systems such as Zoom, Cisco Webex, Teams and Skype from Microsoft failed. “Children and adolescents need a protected space for learning. Just as no company looks over their shoulder in the classroom, they must be allowed to learn carefree and unobserved in the digital room. My authority will continue to advocate this,” explained the data protection commissioner. Learning space Berlin praised Smoltczyk, on the other hand, expressly praised the plan to provide the Lernraum Berlin with its own state-run digital teaching facilities. After a first examination by her authority a few months ago revealed considerable legal and technical problems, the project is now “on the right track”.

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