FSFE Newsletter February 2019
This month's Newsletter is introducing our new expert policy brochure "Public Money? Public Code" and reflecting the importance of source code availability for trust and security in critical IT-infrastructure. As always the Newsletter gives an overview about the talks given and the booths set-up by our community as well as a short summary of what we have done - this month including FOSDEM, 35C3, FOSS4SMEs and the Next Generation Internet. As a "get active" item, this month we encourage you to participate in our IloveFS-campaign.
FSFE publishes expert brochure about “Public Money? Public Code!"
Convincing decision-makers why more public code would benefit us all should be easy. There are so many good arguments for putting publicly funded code under a Free Software licence: Tax savings, transparency, and innovation – just to name a few. But, in practice, we experience that there are still a lot of basics that need to be explained. Starting with: What is Free Software? Why should governments develop Free Software? What are Free Software business models? To answer these questions and give practical guidelines to decision-makers, we have published a policy brochure that presents the most important facts and arguments about publicly funded code.
This publication answers decision-makers' most common questions and refutes widespread misunderstandings about Free Software. In several articles and contributions from experts, the brochure presents successful Free Software use-cases and inspiring legislation that show that change is already taking place. Overall, the brochure provides practical guidance for moving the modernisation of public infrastructure forward and hints at how procurement guidelines can be updated to include the strong points of Free Software. Downloads and prints are available under a Creative Commons license
Among the contributions included in the brochure, that feature experts from various fields, is an interview with Francesca Bria, Chief Technology and Digital Innovation Officer for the City of Barcelona, who drives the modernisation of Barcelona's public infrastructure. She says: "The Barcelona City Council supports the FSFE's campaign 'Public Money, Public Code', because we need alliances to make Free Software the default setting in the public sector. The digital public infrastructure that we use should be a public good, owned and controlled by the citizens."
About publishing source code to establish trust in critical infrastructure
In many countries, the Chinese company Huawei is facing distrust after allegations of potential state espionage. The company is one of the largest manufacturers of 5G equipment, the upcoming generation of cellular mobile communications. To ensure that the products and the underlying infrastructure are safe, network providers and politicians proposed an inspection of the equipment's source code. The FSFE welcomes this move to recognize the importance of source code availability , but is afraid that the proposed solution falls too short. Allowing inspection of the secret code by selected authorities and telephone companies might help in this specific case, but will not solve the general problem. Instead, to establish trust in critical infrastructure like 5G, it is a crucial precondition that all software code powering those devices is published under a Free and Open Source Software licence. On this basis, everyone can inspect the code, not only for backdoors, but for all security risks. Only these freedoms allow for independent and continuous security audits which will lead citizens, the economy, and the public sector to trust their communication and data exchange. Furthermore, in order to verify code integrity – so that the provided source code corresponds to the executable code running on the equipment – it is either necessary that there are reproducible builds in case of binary distribution, or that providers are brought into the position to compile and deploy the code on their own.
"We should not only debate the Huawei case but extend the discussion to all critical infrastructure." says Max Mehl, FSFE Programme Manager. "Only with Free and Open Source Software can transparency and accountability be guaranteed. This is a long-known crucial precondition for security and trust. We expect state actors to immediately implement this solution not only for the Huawei case but for all comparable IT security issues."
What else have we done? Inside and Outside the FSFE
- On January 14 and 15, our project manager Gabriel Ku Wei Bin attended a kickoff meeting in Amsterdam of the Next Generation Internet project, funded by the European Commission and administered by the NLNet Foundation in the Netherlands. The FSFE joins the project to provide guidance to applicant technologies involved in the project to ensure that their final products are compliant with Free Software licensing best practices.
- On January 16 and 17 the FSFE's project managers Galia Mancheva and Max Mehl joined the FOSS4SMEs meeting in Dublin and shot videos for the online lessons the e-learning platform of the project is launching later this year. Stay tuned for further updates on the project’s website.
- Björn Schießle, FSFE coordinator for Germany, gave a talk on using strong copyleft to build a sustainable business at the Copyleft Conference on February 4th in Brussels.
- On January 23 Alexander Sander, the FSFE's EU public policy programme manager, joined a panel at Eurocieties Society Forum in Barcelona. Sander talked about how cities and public administration can foster Free Software and involve the local ecosystem in developing digital services based on Free Software and open standards.
- Paul Boddie writes about "An Absence of Strategy?" in which he argues that "installing Free Software over it" is no longer enough in the world of mobile devices. He claims that instead we need a strategy and an organisation that brings together collective efforts and practical action to identify ongoing projects and propose actual solutions towards constructing sustainable, community-driven, and user-protecting devices.
- Frank Karlitschek predicts that 2019 will be a very good year for privacy, open source and decentralized "cloud" software. It could be the year where Free Software, federated and self-hosted technology hits the mainstream.
- Björn Schießle wrote about Free Software being a "new cultural technique", a collective achievement done in a socio-cultural context, requiring social interaction and participation. And as such, it requires special attention by policy makers and society.
- Marcus Moeller, Country Coordinator of the FSFE in Switzerland, set up a Swiss association Faircomputer for which he and his contributors are collecting used Laptops. These devices are then checked, repaired, cleaned and equipped with Free Software. The refurbished machines are given away for free to interested people around Germany, Austria and Switzerland, only charging a small amount for the warranty to ensure they can be used without any hassle for years.
- Between Christmas and New Year, the FSFE was organising a cluster "about:freedom" together with like-minded organisations at the Chaos Communication Congress, the biggest community driven hacker congress in Germany. Inside the cluster, the FSFE was present with an assembly, a booth, and running its own track. From the FSFE we had Susanne speaking about her self-made "smartphone" (video), Katharina Nocun about data collecting Amazon (video) and Erik Albers about the best of Fdroid (video)
- In the beginning of February, the FSFE was present at FOSDEM, the biggest community-driven Free Software event in Europe. We had formal and informal meetings and social evenings, and were running an information booth throughout the event.
- On January 19, FSFE joined the Dutch Linux user group NLLGG meeting in Utrecht to set up a booth and have a chat about Free Software and related topics.
- Local FSFE community meetings happened this month in Hamburg, Bonn, Frankfurt (Main), Madrid, Zurich and Berlin. If you would like to see your local FSFE meeting listed here, please announce it with our improved event announcement tool.
- The European Commission expands its bug bounty programme called EU-FOSSA2. Software developers who find security vulnerabilities in the selected Free Software will be awarded between EUR 3,000 and EUR 25,000 for critical bugs.
Do not miss: upcoming events with the FSFE
- The FSFE will be present with a booth at Chemnitzer Linuxtage from March 16 to 17 in Chemnitz, Germany, and is looking forward to having a chat with you about Free Software or FSFE. Erik Albers, programme manager for the FSFE will give a workshop about how to make the best of your Android(-fork) by using FDroid. If you like to get in contact beforehand or join the booth team, have a look at the discussion in our Discourse installation.
On February 14, our community around the globe celebrates "I love Free Software" Day. We would like to encourage you to be part of our online campaign by creating, sharing or simply enjoying love messages all around the world dedicated to Free Software and the people behind it. Enjoy the day, share and refuel your energy!
As in previous editions, we are looking forward to seeing you spreading all kind of materials, be they texts, pictures, graphics, scripts or whatever comes to your mind, to show your love to Free Software. Throughout the day, we will share your contributions around the globe on our media channels and collect them for a nice write-up about the love you have for our communities. If you share something, remember to use the hashtag #ilovefs, or if you happen to use the IloveFS visuals on your web platform, website or a blog, please, let us know, so we can include it in our stream.
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