In our August-September Newsletter, we celebrate the right of using a custom router in the Netherlands. We explain why every app that tackles the spread of Covid-19 has to be Free Software. We share the news of our vibrant community, following up what happened in the summertime and what lies ahead of us.
Apps that are necessary for everyone should be available to everyone, without having to install additional and proprietary software stores. This was not the case with the German CovPass app, which provides the EU digital COVID certificate for Corona vaccination on smartphones. It was only available on Apple, Huawai and Google app stores due to proprietary dependencies. Such a practice neglects those who consciously avoid proprietary software and choose to use Free Software. For them, the app was unavailable.
Experts saved the day, and therefore we would like to thank @jugendhacker, @mythsunwind, @rugk, @tzugen, Felix C. Stegerman, and Marcus Hoffmann. Together, they worked selflessly for weeks and developed the CovPass app for F-droid. The experts also removed proprietary Google libraries which were not necessary for the app to function.
This additional work would not have been necessary if the CovPass developers – who are paid with public funds – had not included these unnecessary proprietary libraries from the beginning. Furthermore, the company developing CovPass was unsupportive towards external developers, which increased the difficulty for the volunteers to contribute improvements. Because of this, improvements which would have required little effort by the original developers turned out to be a difficult task for third-party experts. It is a typical problem that can be avoided by releasing as Free Software any software whose development is publicly funded.
The same process happened last year with the German Covid-tracing app: experts voluntarily took over governments' and administrations' tasks to make this app available to everyone. In the case of Covid-related apps, public bodies have failed in Germany. "We urge the government to quickly adapt its practices and make sure everyone can use such apps without any restrictions from the start" says Matthias Kirschner, President of the FSFE. The silver lining in contrast is the example of Switzerland, where the official Covid certificate app was added to F-droid by the Federal Office of Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT).
Router Freedom is now a reality in the Netherlands. All Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must allow end-users to choose and use their own routers and modems within 6 months. Also, it was secured that consumers who set up an alternative router should still enjoy technical support by the ISPs. The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets' (ACM) decision represents a victory for consumers in the Netherlands and a win for net neutrality in Europe.
The new rules passed after a persistent effort of the FSFE to draw attention to the importance of Router Freedom. The FSFE contacted BEREC raising the Router Freedom demand for the first time three years ago, in 2018, resulting in establishing Router Freedom as a standard for European countries. In 2019, the FSFE contacted the Dutch national agency too, to enquire about the situation in the country. Since then, the FSFE's Country Team Netherlands pushed the issue through by organising seminars, talking to stakeholders, going to events, raising the issue on social media, and helping with the elaboration of technical and legal documents.
Now, it is the time to celebrate. ACM's decision is a major win for all end-users in the Netherlands!
Do you want to learn more about the status of Router Freedom in your country? Check our monitoring map! You can contribute with our work by taking part in our end-user survey to help monitoring Router Freedom in your country.
On Wednesday 15 September at 20:00 CEST, the Dutch FSFE team will have its monthly meeting. The Dutch team always welcomes new members. If you would like to take part in the meeting, please contact the FSFE Coordinator of the Netherlands, Nico Rikken.
In September's monthly meeting, the FSFE Women group will discuss gender aspects of learning programming. Research papers will be briefly presented and discussed. We welcome new members who identify as females. The date is still to be arranged, so if you are interested in Free Software join our mailing list and get to know us.
On July 30th, Max Mehl, Programme Manager of the FSFE, gave an interview in thelocal.de about the disaster warning system of Germany. The topic came to the spotlight after the floods in Germany, but the weaknesses of the warning system were a known issue already. Max argues in favour of warnings sent through cell broadcast instead of apps, because they can reach everyone with a phone and target specific locations. There is also a publicly accessible reprint available.
On August 17th, the FSFE Women group met and Loria presented how maps are created in a 2D workadventu.re world.
On August 18th, the FSFE Dutch team met to discuss the end of SMS authentication for DigiD, the efforts to introduce Free Software in schools, and other technological developments.
On August 22nd at FrOsCon, Alexander Sander, FSFE's Policy Consultant, presented the latest developments in the digitization of administrations and ventured an outlook for the time after the federal elections in Germany.
On 26 September, a new Bundestag will be elected in Germany. We are engaged around the election and want to ensure with our activities that "Public Money? Public Code!" plays an important role for the next government. Therefore we want to make sure that our "Public Money? Public Code!" demands will be included in the coalition agreement of Germany's next government. To achieve this we need your help and support. You can learn how you can help us in the dedicated activity package [DE].
If you would like to share any thoughts, pictures, or news, please
send them to us. As always, the address is
Your editor, Fani Partsafyllidou
The biggest financial impact the FSFE faces in these times of physical distancing is the cancellation of Free Software conferences, including our own events. To keep the software freedom movement solid and alive, please consider donating a part of your conference budget to Free Software organisations, including the FSFE.