Julia Reda, MEP: "Proprietary Software threatens Democracy"

press at fsfeurope.org press at fsfeurope.org
Thu Sep 8 07:23:09 CEST 2016

 = Julia Reda, MEP: "Proprietary Software threatens Democracy" =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2016/news-20160907-01.fi.html ]

Julia Reda ended the QtCon, a conference for the Free Software
community, with a closing keynote on, among other things, Free Software
in the European Public Sector.

Ms Reda, a member of the EU Parliament for the Pirate Party, explained
how proprietary software, software that forbids users from studying and
modifying it, has often left regulators in the dark, becoming a
liability for and often a threat to the well-being and health of

An example of this, she said, is the recent Dieselgate scandal, in which
auto-mobile manufacturers installed software that cheated instruments
that measured fumes in test environments, only to spew illegal amounts
of toxic exhaust into the atmosphere the moment they went on the road.

Ms Reda also explained how medical devices running proprietary software
posed a health hazard for patients. She gave the example of a woman with
a pacemaker who collapsed while climbing some stairs due to a bug in her
device. Doctors and technicians had no way of diagnosing and correcting
the problem as they did not have access to the code.

Also worrying is the threat software with restrictive licenses pose to
democracy itself. The trend of substituting traditional voting ballots
with voting machines is especially worrying, because, as these machines
are not considered a threat to national security, their software also
goes unaudited and is, in fact, unauditable in most cases.

And, although voting machines are built and programmed by private
companies, they are commissioned by public entities and paid for with
public money, money taken from citizens' taxes. However, there are no
universal EU regulations that force companies, or, indeed, public
organisations, to make the source code available to the citizens that
have paid for it, said Ms Reda.

Furthermore, she noted that, despite the fact Free Software technologies
(web servers, CMSs, email servers, and so on) are used extensively
throughout the public administration, the public sector assumes very
little responsibility in the way of giving back to the community via
patches or even bug reports.

Ms Reda said that the solution to this very dismal state of affairs is a
multi-pronged one. She commended the Free Software Foundation Europe for
its work in advocating for all software commissioned by public entities
and paid with public money, be made available under free/libre licenses
for everyone. She also noted that to get governments on the side of Free
Software it is essential to make them see its merits.

Only like this, she said, would it be possible to make legislators
regulate coherently in favour of free/libre technologies.

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  == About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  Free Software Foundation Europe is a charity that empowers users to
  control technology. Software is deeply involved in all aspects of our
  lives; and it is important that this technology empowers rather than
  restricts us. Free Software gives everybody the rights to use,
  understand, adapt and share software. These rights help support other
  fundamental freedoms like freedom of speech, press and privacy.

  The FSFE helps individuals and organisations to understand how Free
  Software contributes to freedom, transparency, and self-determination.
  It enhances users' rights by abolishing barriers to Free Software
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  in Europe.


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