Demand for transparent CovPass apps in EU +++ Dutch gain Router Freedom

press at press at
Mon Sep 13 10:19:22 UTC 2021

 = Demand for transparent CovPass apps in EU +++ Dutch gain Router Freedom =

[ Read online: ]

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.

 == CovPass apps should be available to all; thus, they should be Free Software ==

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 [1], @mythsunwind [2], @rugk [3], @tzugen [4], 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 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 [5] governments' and administrations'
tasks to make this app available to everyone. In the case of Covid-
related apps, public bodies have failed [6] 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).

 == Advocating pays off: Dutch Internet users gain Router Freedom ==

Router Freedom is now a reality in the Netherlands. All Internet Service
Providers (ISPs) must allow end-users [7] 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 [8] 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! [9] You can contribute with our work
by taking part in our end-user survey [10] to help monitoring Router
Freedom in your country.

 == Upcoming events: ==

On Wednesday 15 September at 20:00 CEST, the Dutch FSFE team [11] 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 [12] 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 [13] and get to know us.

 == What we have done: ==

On July 30th, Max Mehl, Programme Manager of the FSFE, gave an interview
[14] in 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 [15] available.

On August 17th, the FSFE Women group [16] met and Loria presented how
maps are created in a 2D world.

On August 18th, the FSFE Dutch team met to discuss [17] the end of SMS
authentication for DigiD, the efforts to introduce Free Software in
schools, and other technological developments.

On August 22nd at FrOSCon [18], 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.

- During the last weekend of August, the FSFE Austria participated in
  the annual Veganmania summer festival. Next to live music, street
  food, and DIY workshops, the Viennese FSFE volunteers team organised a
  booth [19] to explain the basics of Free Software to visitors. The
  Veganmania festival is visited by thousands of visitors with diverse
  backgrounds. The supporters noticed an increase in how many people
  were technically conscious compared to the previous years. Also,
  newcomers in the field of Free Software were interested to read our
  guides with technical tips to increase their computer security.
  Instructions on basic utilities such as email encryption and password
  managers gained a lot of attention. If you are interested to learn
  more, you can read the report [20] from the FSFE supporters group in

 == Get active for the Federal election 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 [21] [DE].

 == Contribute to our newsletter ==

If you would like to share any thoughts, pictures, or news, please send
them to us. As always, the address is newsletter at We're looking
forward to hearing from you! If you also want to support us and our
work, join our community and support us with a donation or a monthly
contribution [22]. Thanks to our community and all the volunteers,
supporters, and donors who make our work possible. And thanks to our
translators, who enable you to read this newsletter in your native

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 [23].


Discuss this [24]

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