On 7th November, several political candidates standing in the Manchester Central By-election participated in the "Manchester Digital Debate", organised by our UK coordinator Sam Tuke and the Open Rights Group (ORG). The event is part of FSFE's "Ask Your Candidates" campaign, which aims to provide an opportunity to engage (local) politicians with digital concerns that they typically do not address.
Besides these important steps at the local level, last month the UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. In future all UK Government bodies must comply with the Open Standards Principles or apply for an exemption.FSFE welcomed this step, and particularly its strong Open Standards definition. It also includes another long-standing FSFE demand: to take into account the software exit costs. From now on, when UK government bodies buy a software solution, they have to consider in the price a calculation of what it will cost them to get out of this solution, in the future. This means that government bodies could not simply avoid buying Free Software solutions because they are locked into one particular vendor's proprietary file formats. FSFE president Karsten Gerloff analysed the new policy in detail.
We want to make sure that you are in control of your computing. This control is, currently, restricted by "Secure Boot". On 19th November, as the first government, the German Ministry of the Interior published a white paper about "Trusted Computing" and "Secure Boot". The white paper states that "device owners must be in complete control of (able to manage and monitor) all the trusted computing security systems of their devices." This has been one of FSFE's key demands from the beginning of the debate. The document continues that "delegating this control to third parties requires conscious and informed consent by the device owner".
Another FSFE demand is also addressed by the government's white paper: Before purchasing a device, buyers must be informed concisely about the technical measures implemented in this device, as well as the specific usage restrictions and its consequences for the owner: "Trusted computing security systems must be deactivated (opt-in principle)" when devices are delivered. "Based on the necessary transparency with regard to technical features and content of trusted computing solutions, device owners must be able to make responsible decisions when it comes to product selection, start-up, configuration, operation and shut-down." And "Deactivation must also be possible later (opt- out function) and must not have any negative impact on the functioning of hard- and software that does not use trusted computing functions."
Though all of what the German Government stated, should be self-evident, unfortunately it is not. FSFE will continue talking to other governments about this issue, to improve their understanding of the political and economic consequences of this technology.
First the bad news: The city of Freiburg has decided to switch back, from OpenOffice.org, to Microsoft Office. The study they based their decision on was published one week before the decision, which we and other Free Software organisations had criticised before. Unfortunate news, but as IBM's Rob Weir wrote in his article in the Free Software community we tend to look at the bad news, and forget about the good news.
So, some good news: on the one hand, the City of Leipzig has just migrated 4200 working stations to OpenOffice (DE), and on the other hand, Munich announced they are saving over 10 Million Euro with Free Software. If you want to be updated with good news from the public administrations in Europe, the European Commission's Join-up Portal is a good place to check out.
It is the end of the year, and like FSFE's financial officer Reinhard Müller your editor would like to start 2013 with a good money buffer. So this month, please help us to fill our war chest:
Thanks to all the Fellows and
donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE
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