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September 20, 2019updated 30 Jun 2022 9:28am

Is the German Government Set to Kiss Goodbye to Microsoft, Amid “Digital Sovereignty” Fears?

Government will "review alternative programs to replace specific software"

By CBR Staff Writer

Germany is seeking to boost “digital sovereignty” by reducing dependency on large IT providers such as Microsoft amid concerns about data collection and US legislation, and will boost the use of open source solutions instead, the Interior Ministry said this week, in a move that could rupture a long-standing relationship with the company.

While Germany’s conservative financial services industry has been taking baby steps towards the cloud (see Deutsche Börse’s recent adoption of Azure, for example) the country’s political establishment is looking to move firmly in the opposite direction, the notice suggests; with Microsoft use understood to be particularly in the cross-hairs.

The use of international IT providers comes with dependency issues, troublesome user data collection (telemetry), and “internationally heterogeneous legislation” (likely a thinly veiled dig at the CLOUD Act), the country’s Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) said on Thursday in a sharply worded statement.

See also: New “100% UK Sovereign” UKCloud Service Takes Pot Shot at US CLOUD Act

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said his ministry – “in close coordination with the EU” – would be looking to “reduce dependencies on individual IT providers, as well as review alternative programs to replace specific software”.

The move, he said, would ensure “digital sovereignty”.

The Federal Administration will support this development over the next few years, i.e. “through requirements for the terms of use of software, but also through the specific selection of products and suppliers” the ministry said. The use of open source solutions will play an important role in this, the statement adds.

Pointing to a strategic market analysis commissioned by the BMI from PwC, Horst Seehofer noted, in a post first reported by The Register: “In the federal administration, standard products of commercial software providers are widely used.

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He added: “The economically required standardisation of the software portfolio to just a few products of individual IT providers leads to further dependencies and thus to additional risks for digital sovereignty.”

The minister added in the statement: “This process is compounded by the growing focus of the software industry on cloud-based solutions.”

The report, which also highlights of other commercial software tools from Google, SAP, etc. comes after the Ministry banned the use of Office 365 in German schools over concerns about telemetry us. Microsoft responded at the time: “When Office 365 is connected to a work or school account, administrators have a range of options to limit features that are enabled by sending data to Microsoft.

“We recently announced (here and here), based on customer feedback, new steps towards even greater transparency and control for these organizations when it comes to sharing this data. In our service terms we document the steps we take to protect customer data, and we’ve even successfully sued the U.S. government over access to customer data in Europe.”

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