[FSFE PR][EN] Public bodies fail: Volunteers have to sacrifice free time to make CovPass app available to all

press at fsfe.org press at fsfe.org
Mon Aug 30 07:08:05 UTC 2021

 = Public bodies fail: Volunteers have to sacrifice free time to make CovPass app available to all =

[ Read online: https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210830-01.en.html ]

After the successful liberation of the German Corona tracing app from
Google services last year, volunteers once more have to step in to take
over the government's task in order to make the CovPass app available to

With the CovPass app, the EU digital COVID certificate for Corona
vaccination can be used on smartphones. Until today, it was only
available on Apple, Huawai and Google app stores due to proprietary
dependencies. The support team of the CovPass app also argued that the
app cannot be published in other app stores due to security reasons and
to prevent misuse. This argumentation is not only misleading and wrong,
as we have already seen with other Corona apps, but prevents the use of
many Corona apps for people who value privacy and software freedom on
their devices. A group of volunteers worked heavily in the past weeks to
make this app available to everyone and released it today on F-Droid, a
Free Software app store. [1]

To do so, the volunteers also removed proprietary Google libraries which
are not necessary for the app to function. This additional work could
have been prevented if the CovPass developers (who are paid with public
funds) would not include such 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 volunteers. A positive example is
the COVID Certificate, the official app for storing and presenting Swiss
COVID certificates. It was developed by the Federal Office of
Information Technology, Systems and Telecommunication (FOITT) on behalf
of the Federal Office of Public Health, and the developers made sure to
include the app in the Free Software app store F-Droid themselves.

Felix C. Stegerman, software developer and part of the volunteers group
that worked on the CovPass app: "I want to make sure that everyone can
use publicly financed apps so we can tackle the pandemic. It is sad that
the processes of some of those publicly financed apps scare off external
contributions instead of working together on improvements. More
administrations should follow the example of the developers of the Swiss
COVID Certificate app."  Matthias Kirschner, President of the Free
Software Foundation Europe expresses: "One more time volunteers are
taking over governments' and administrations' tasks to make Corona apps
available to everyone. The FSFE thanks @jugendhacker, @mythsunwind,
@rugk, @tzugen, Felix C. Stegerman and Marcus Hoffmann for their crucial
work in tackling the pandemic. But it should not be on volunteers to do
this job: we urge the government to quickly adapt its practices and make
sure everyone can use such apps without any restrictions from the start.
Furthermore, if ensured that solutions are published as Free Software,
they can be adjusted and reused by other institutions around the world."
Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, the FSFE has demanded that all
apps released to tackle the crisis must be Free Software. Only Free
Software offers enough transparency to validate complete data protection
and compliant use; allowing trust to be established. Also, global
problems need global solutions, and it is only Free Software that
enables global code development in a legally safe and cooperative
environment. Any proprietary solution will inevitably lead to countless
isolated solutions and thereby waste energy and time. Besides global
cooperation, Free Software licences allow sharing of code in any
jurisdiction and for every device.

Discuss this [2]

 1: https://f-droid.org/packages/de.rki.covpass.app/
 2: https://community.fsfe.org/t/720

  == 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 understand how Free
  Software contributes to freedom, transparency and self-determination. We
  enhance 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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