The app created as an alternative to Stockholm City’s school platform will be shut down from accessing information from the school platform. The city has decided this pending an investigation.
It has now been three weeks since Ny Teknik reported that parents with a background in the IT world in Stockholm have made their own app, which has been named the Open School Platform. The idea is that it will offer the same information as the City of Stockholm’s own school platform, but designed in a more user-friendly way.
Since its release, over 3,000 people have purchased the app. But not everyone is equally happy. The city of Stockholm says that they were taken to bed, and have begun to investigate whether the app violates any laws or regulations.
– This is a new phenomenon that our lawyers were not prepared for, says the education administration’s IT manager Annmarie Taylor.
Now the city has decided to make a security update which means that the open school platform can no longer access the information from the school platform, which Dagens Nyheter was the first to report.
– We do this until we are sure that we protect the personal data we have. Otherwise, we would like to be able to take part in open data, but it must not contain any personal data, says Taylor.
Compare with a web browser
The question is whether the parents’ app handles any personal information. The people behind it claim that this is not the case, and compare themselves to a browser that displays information without handling it.
– They know that we do not handle personal data, and we have open source code so everyone can see that this is how it is, says Christian Landgren, programmer and parent.
But the city of Stockholm is not as sure about the matter.
– Our lawyers have not landed on that issue yet, and then we unfortunately have to take the safe before the unsafe, says Annmarie Taylor, and develops what it is that creates question marks:
– Who will be responsible if there is an incident? We have no agreements with them. And even if they are not saving any information now – can they start doing it all of a sudden? I understand that we can be perceived as rigid and complicated, but it must be done in the right way.
What do you say to the parents who bought the app?
– I understand if many guardians will be very angry now, but there is an incredible variation between the users of our systems. They have 3,000 users, we have almost half a million, and there are those who are not happy that their information may be in their app.
Surprised by the shutdown
On Thursday, the education administration and the team behind the open school platform met. According to both sides, the meeting was rewarding, which makes Christian Landgren surprised by the news on Friday.
– We were taken to bed. They talk about shutting down features to make it harder for us, which is really weird.
– I do not know how to make them understand that no information is “with us”. That is the whole crux of the problem. In addition, we have offered to close the parts that they are worried about, and to sign agreements while they investigate the issues, he says.
The programmer parent refers to the PSI Act, which regulates how information from the public sector is handled.
– I have the right to give information about me as a public sector manager to someone else, says Christian Landgren, and tells of a case where a bank was not judged to have the right to say no if the customers wanted their information to be shared with another company.
Is it really possible to compare with the school platform?
– Yes. At the meeting yesterday, a lawyer from the city of Stockholm also made that comparison.
Has become a food for thought
Whether the City of Stockholm will succeed in stopping the Open School Platform is not clear, however, according to Christian Landgren.
– We’ll see what they do for something. Since they have not referred to us breaking a law, for example, we see no reason to stop just because they make it more complicated. If it does, we will have to find a way around it. We have a responsibility to those who bought the app, he says.
What do you think about the City of Stockholm’s action in this matter?
– They restrict and soil us by suggesting that what we do may be illegal – without referring to which law we would be violating in that case. I think it’s dishonest. We are super clear: we do not save information, it is open source.
Despite the problems, the city finds the initiative from the parents exciting, and it has given them food for thought.
– There are certain parts of the school platform you can wish for more of. We work ourselves to update and make what is visible to the guardians better and more user-friendly. We have a little to do and we are happy to take part in their ideas, says Annmarie Taylor.
The City of Stockholm had to pay SEK 4 million after security deficiencies
The school platform is a digital platform for Stockholm City’s schools. According to the municipality, the school platform is currently used by almost 800 schools and preschools, 200,000 guardians, 140,000 students and 23,500 educators and other school staff.
In November, the Swedish Data Inspectorate announced that it had found serious deficiencies in the platform’s security. The shortcomings were judged to be so serious that the City of Stockholm had to pay SEK 4 million in penalty fees. The shortcomings were first discovered by a private individual, which Ny Teknik has written more about here.
According to a review of Today’s news the development of the platform together with the operating costs has cost just over one billion kronor until 2020.
The project to develop the platform began in 2012. The launch took place in 2018 and the project ended in 2019.