Digital sovereignty gradually being restored
Summary: Despite Microsoft blackmail of British politicians, HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) moves to Google’s ODF-supporting office suite, dumping Microsoft’s biggest cash cow and notorious lock-in; India and Sweden too move in a positive direction with more Free software, despite Microsoft lobbying and bullying
THE BEGINNING OF this week has been great. It had lots to offer in terms of good news. It really started with a bang and hopefully it won’t end with a just a mere whimper.
Microsoft is evidently getting desperate in convincing people to sign its horrible deals (because fewer are willing to sign these) and it is losing some very major clients right now, including governments in wealthy and/or large countries. It’s not some home users and a company or two. It’s now a growing trend, including the world’s second population (by size) and the world’s biggest empire ever, in addition to a top GDP/capita economy. There are literally billions of dollars at stake.
Microsoft is still actively trying to derail Free/Open Source software (FOSS) in voting systems in the United States and it often gets away with it because it has plenty of influence in the United States government. Controlling the voting system and bribing political candidates (as it does, even personally) ensures interference in elections and thus government decisions regarding IT procurement. We are still seeing it in this new article from IDG, stating: “Microsoft’s new system not only provides for easy transmission of election results, but it also allows party administrators to view results as they come in and will automatically identify potential problem areas. Election officials can then contact the precinct representative to clear anything up. It also means that tech experts will be lending their security know-how to the process, which is a good sign since the Iowa Democrats’ press release announcing the system included spammy advertisements Friday for discount pharmaceuticals.”
We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements. Now our suspicions are further defended, seeing articles like “Revealed Emails Show How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”. This shows sick jokes, bribery, government capture, and how corporations (through their lobbyists) are writing the law. “One for Techrights stories,” wrote a reader to us regarding this news from TechDirt, summarising it with “How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”.
“Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement,” he wrote, “to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
Here is the direct quote: “Hi Barbara – John sent through a link to the P4 agreement. I have taken a quick look at the rules of origin. Someone owes USTR a royalty payment – these are our rules. They will need some tweaking but will likely not need major surgery. This is a very pleasant surprise. I will study more closely over the weekend.”’
TechDirt recalled: “Back in 2013, we wrote about a FOIA lawsuit that was filed by William New at IP Watch. After trying to find out more information on the TPP by filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and being told that they were classified as “national security information” (no, seriously), New teamed up with Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to sue. As part of that lawsuit, the USTR has now released a bunch of internal emails concerning TPP negotiations, and IP Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement, to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
“We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements.”Here is the original article. “Leaked TPP emails talks about software patentability,” Benjamin Henrion (FFII) noted about it.
To quote IP Watch: “While a full range of stakeholders would be affected by the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement under secret negotiation by the United States and a dozen trading partners, corporate representatives have had a special seat at the negotiating table, as shown by hundreds of pages of confidential emails from the US Trade Representative’s office obtained by Intellectual Property Watch. The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.
“Years into the negotiation, the TPP is said to be nearing completion and is the subject of a US congressional debate over renewal of fast-track negotiating authority for the president (limiting Congress to a yes or no vote). But the TPP text has never been made available to the public of the countries negotiating it, except through periodic leaks of parts of the text, making these emails timely for the debate.
“Through a US Freedom of Information Act request, Intellectual Property Watch has obtained some 400 pages of email traffic between USTR officials and industry advisors. Most of the content of the emails is redacted (blacked out), but they still give insight into the process.”
“The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.”
–IP WatchThis is significant because we recently found out about anti-FOSS parts in these agreements, likely to have been the result of lobbying by Microsoft or the likes of it. If so-called ‘trade’ agreements pass with the anti-FOSS sections and ISDS, then Microsoft can sue ones like the Indian government for choosing FOSS as a matter of policy. There is a lot of Microsoft lobbying in India, objecting specifically to this [1, 2, 3], but how about lobbying around trade agreements? Wouldn’t that be clever? It would demolish FOSS globally in one fell swoop, as long as corruptible politicians remain quiet enough and citizens are therefore too ignorant to prevent the signing of nasty (but secret) agreements.
India’s move to FOSS, or the increasing embrace of FOSS (with a FOSS-leaning procurement policy) was covered by Red Hat’s OpenSource.com the other day, noting: “The Government of India has implemented a remarkable new policy-level change for open source software (OSS) deployment. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has asked that open source software-based applications be included in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for all new procurements. Note there is not a plan at this time to replace existing proprietary systems with open source software.”
This is still going on while Microsoft fights back viciously. If the aforementioned ‘trade’ agreements pass, Microsoft might even be able to sue the government, not for discrimination but for not obeying so-called ‘trade’ laws (newly-introduced). It’s a back door trick, negotiated behind closed doors.
Here in the UK the government is now in a good position to move to GNU/Linux, despite Microsoft's blackmail of British politicians. Dependence on Windows is already being reduced because, according to this article, “HMRC ditches Microsoft in favour of Google Apps”. To quote some relevant bits:
HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) has become the first major government department to dump Microsoft in favour of Google.
The Register reported that 70,000 HMRC staff will adopt Google’s cloud-based productivity apps over Microsoft’s Office 365 offering, joining 20,000 government employees who already use Google’s Gmail service.
HMRC has since confirmed the move in a statement. A spokesperson said: “HMRC has an ambitious digital future planned. This contract will make it easier for staff to collaborate on internal documents, providing greater flexibility and efficiency while reducing costs.
HM Revenues and Customs (British tax) dumping Microsoft is huge news; blackmailing politicians didn’t work out and one wonder if there are more government offices poised to follow suit. Surely they’ll watch how HMRC gets along. It has become abundantly clear that Microsoft is so scared/worried about FOSS and ODF (also Google) in the UK that it’s willing to blackmail or bribe.
Meanwhile, as revealed by Andy Updegrove, Sweden follows the UK government’s footsteps by choosing standards, including ODF. This is why Microsoft was so scared and then became aggressive over the decision that might later spread to the rest of Europe. One might wonder about Swedish politicians who led to this; will Microsoft blackmail them too?
“While the current list of approved standards in Sweden is short,” wrote Updegrove, “it does (as in the U.K.) include the ISO standard PDF/A-1, for uneditable documents, and OASIS’s ODF 1.2, for editable text. The ODF standard (adopted in an earlier version by ISO in 2004) was the subject of perhaps the most vigorously fought standards war of the last 20 years, raging on a global basis for several years. The contest was sparked by the decision of the Commowealth of Massachusetts to approve ODF, but not Microsoft’s competing XML-based standard, referred to as OOXML. That standard was also adopted by ISO, following Microsoft’s contribution of the original text to another standards body, called ECMA.
“Massachusetts ultimately adopted OOXML as well as ODF after severe lobbying pressure. Since then, the question of whether ODF, OOXML or both meets with the approval of cities, states and nations making such determinations has continued to be a contentious and closely watched matter.
“For this reason, it will be interesting to see whether additional EU countries follow the lead of the U.K. and Sweden.”
Scandinavia as a whole (not just Sweden it seems) is ‘plotting’/’scheming’ (to use negative terms) to embrace standards and dump proprietary blobs. North Europe seems to be eager to emancipate itself from NSA-leaning, Empire-serving blobs. There is a shift to FOSS, fostering local jobs and improving trust (no back doors from across the Atlantic). Open standards, suffice to say, tend to lead to FOSS. █
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