Three-quarters of Dutch student data stored on American tech giants' cloud
Three-quarters of all Dutch student data is stored in the cloud run by American tech companies Microsoft and Amazon, Het Financieele Dagblad reports based on an international study. Experts are growing increasingly concerned about higher education institutions’ use of the cloud due to students’ privacy and universities’ dependency on American tech companies.
Researchers Tobias Fiebig of the German Max Planck Institute for Computer Science and Martina Lindorfer of the Technical University in Vienna looked at universities’ use of the cloud from 2015 to the present. In 2015, Dutch higher education institutions stored about 25 percent of student data on the cloud. That has now increased to 75 percent.
The researchers raised concerns that the increasing dependence on these tech companies could undermine scientific integrity. Dutch experts also raised concerns about students' and university employees’ data being managed by commercial companies that fall under United States law. According to FD, this could allow American investigative services to demand access to Dutch private data.
Dutch market authority ACM previously warned that universities’ dependence on commercial companies could limit their choices. Switching from one service to another is time-consuming and expensive. And it is almost impossible to get data out of the cloud once it’s stored there.
In 2019, rectors of Dutch universities warned that big tech companies could misuse student and lecturer data in advertising. Similar warnings came from 19 professors last year and the Royal Netherlands Acadamy of Arts and Science (KNAW) this year, according to the newspaper.
The Universities of the Netherlands (UNL) told FD that they do not keep track of how many universities put information on the cloud. The association said it does recognize “the risk of dependence on large tech companies.” The UNL said it cooperates in negotiations with big tech companies to collectively enforce academic values in contracts.
Researcher Fiebig called that “naive.” “The tech companies are basically saying: we promise not to abuse you, as long as you get into a position where you can’t refuse if we do.”