[FSFE] Three conclusions to draw from Google denying Huawei access to software

press at fsfe.org press at fsfe.org
Tue May 21 05:56:10 UTC 2019

 = Three conclusions to draw from Google denying Huawei access to software =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2019/news-20190520-01.it.html ]

Google denies the Chinese IT giant Huawei access to Google's proprietary
components of the Android mobile operating system which threatens IT
security. This highlights the importance Free Software has for
technology users, public bodies, and businesses. The Free Software
Foundation Europe (FSFE) presents three essential lessons from this

Following the U.S. administration's decision to effectively ban American
companies from doing trade with the Chinese company Huawei, Google
suspended all business with the company. This affects all software which
is not covered under Free Software licences. In practice, Huawei's
upcoming and potentially also current phones will no longer get support
and updates for the Android operating system. They will also not have
access to the proprietary Google apps and services like Gmail and Google
Play. Although proprietary software should be avoided in the first
place, especially the latter will put future Huawei user at risk because
without access to the default app store on most stock Android phones
they will miss important security updates for the apps installed through

Google offers only a base version of Android under a Free Software
licence but bundles it together with proprietary apps and services. The
non-free components of most stock Android devices have numerous
downsides for users, as the FSFE has documented since 2012 [1]. Now, the
current case demonstrates that even tech giants like Huawei face similar
dependencies and vendor lock-in effects as any individual users if they
rely on proprietary software.

 == Three Conclusions ==

The following lessons can be drawn from this case:

1. The FSFE urges *users* to use Free Software operating systems and
   applications on their computing devices. With proprietary software,
   they are on the receiving end only and vendors may deny them access
   to crucial security updates if the vendor or a government changes its
   strategy. Free Software enables control of technology, and the more
   important that technology becomes in our daily lives, the more
   relevant Free Software becomes for users. For Android, the FSFE helps
   users to regain more control with its Free Your Android initiative

2. *Governments and especially the European Union* should invest more
   resources in Free Software to gain independence from large
   enterprises and other states. The current case highlights the lack of
   influence the EU has on outside technology providers. Instead of
   waiting for a future European IT monopolist to enter the stage, the
   EU and its members states should invest in Free Software development
   [3] and focus on supporting local Free Software organisations as well
   as businesses. This would effectively foster the inner-European
   market and enable independence for European citizens and the EU
   economy. This step is essential for avoiding exposing European
   infrastructure to shutdowns controlled by external factors.

3. The FSFE urges *companies* to use as much Free Software as possible
   in their supply chains. Proprietary software makes a company
   dependent on its vendor and this vendor's government. The current
   case shows that the US was able to force Google to stop delivery of
   its proprietary products – but could not stop delivery of the Free
   Software components of Android. Had Huawei invested more resources in
   Free Software apps and services, the US strategy would not have hit
   them as hard. Although the current events are linked to the scrutiny
   the Chinese company is under right now, it is obvious that this could
   happen to any other company based in any other country as well.

The earlier allegations against Huawei already showed that code for all
critical infrastructure should be published under a Free Software
licence [4]. The latest episode of the Huawei affair illustrates that
the same applies to apps and services. Just days before the European
Elections, this should be a wake-up call for the next constituent
Parliament to ask the European Commission for European directives that
foster independence of European technical infrastructure and that build
on Free Software, starting with the demand to release publicly funded
software as public code [5].

Discuss this article [6]

 1: https://freeyourandroid.org
 2: https://freeyourandroid.org
 3: https://publiccode.eu
 4: https://fsfe.org/news/2019/news-20190205-01.it.html
 5: https://publiccode.eu
 6: https://community.fsfe.org/t/three-conclusions-to-draw-from-google-denying-huawei-access-to-software/278

  == 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
  adoption, encourage people to use and develop Free Software, and
  provide resources to enable everyone to further promote Free Software
  in Europe.


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