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06.29.13

Europe is Moving to Freedom-Respecting Software After the PRISM Scandal

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software at 2:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: More success stories for Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) across Europe come amid serious revelations that give ammunition against the use of proprietary software, including Microsoft software where back door access by the NSA is now a fact

Earlier this month we published several posts about European politicians expressing deep concerns over spying by the NSA, which is essentially, based on law professors (days ago in the New York Times), criminal. Here in England and also in Berlin there have recently been some odd policy changes that are easy to attribute to lobbyists of proprietary software or some moles. Someone has just used IDG to anonymously tell the story which names no specific place. It says: “Years of successful open source development are dumped after a directive comes down from on high — without discussion allowed or reasons given” (that’s just the summary).

“As procurement becomes more visible to the public, pressure will be put to move to FOSS and lawsuits filed when that doesn’t happen (not necessarily due to privacy concerns, at least not yet).”This sounds like a typical story, similar to many others that we covered; these are stories where Microsoft crushes FOSS using corruption, e.g. bribes. There is this new report about a region in Italy “replacing Microsoft Office on 7,000 machines with the open source alternative, saving up to €600,000 in licensing costs.”

As procurement becomes more visible to the public, pressure will be put to move to FOSS and lawsuits filed when that doesn't happen (not necessarily due to privacy concerns, at least not yet).

Over in France right now we observe the same thing which recently happened in the UK. Pro-FOSS policy gets watered down, or as an FSFE blog puts it:

On June 25 the French Senat voted the final version of the law on education, accepting a governmental amendment weakening the bill’s Free Software provision. Procurement for e-learning services now has to “consider Free Software and open format offers, if any”. No more priority given to Free Software solutions, unfortunately.

This is fortunately being reversed again, revealing an ongoing fight over policy:

French parliament says free software is a priority in education

France’s Senate and National Assembly agree to make free software a priority for education. This Wednesday the National Assembly confirmed a proposal by the Senate, urging institutions of higher educations to prefer this type of solution. The plan still needs to be accepted by the government.

We shall see how it ends up. Given that companies like Microsoft share personal data of EU citizens with the NSA (Microsoft generates more spin as it gets sued for privacy violations in Europe) and the NSA has back doors for Microsoft software, no nation should use this type of software, especially not in defence or education (public sector).

There are many stories this month about parts of Europe abandoning Microsoft for FOSS and one has to wonder what role PRISM plays in debates over it. As a token of advice, when arguing with people over software freedom, cite privacy issues, noting autonomy and security. People do care about it now.

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