The German Corona Warn App as Open Source Software

Today, the Ger­man Coro­na-Warn-App was released. It was received pos­i­tive­ly, even at Spiegel and Welt. The Ger­man gov­ern­ment want­ed it to be devel­oped as open-source soft­ware for increas­ing the accep­tance of the app by the Ger­man peo­ple. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is still some skep­ti­cism. Let me com­ment on some of these con­cerns:

  • Some say that the Ger­man Coro­na Warn App is not open source soft­ware because it uses the (closed) API offered by Google or Apple. But nev­er­the­less the app (and the sys­tem itself) is pub­lished under the terms of an offi­cial­ly approved open source soft­ware license (Apache v2). And even Richard Stall­mann pub­lished his emacs as free soft­ware although it used the under­ly­ing Unix sys­tem libs.
  • Oth­ers state that one can­not trust the Coro­na Warn App because it nev­er­the­less can secret­ly trans­mit pro­tect­ed data. But this is opposed by the prin­ci­ple of open­ness and vol­un­tari­ness: You can ver­i­fy that code does not do any­thing for­bid­den or unde­sir­able — by ana­lyz­ing the pub­licly acces­si­ble code. Addi­tion­al­ly, no one is enforced to use this app: you decide whether you install the app or not, you decide whether you make your ill­ness known or not, and you decide whether you call for noti­fi­ca­tions of ill­ness or not.
  • Final­ly, some assume that the coro­na warn app sys­tem lat­er and secret­ly will be trans­formed into a gen­er­al tool of the Gov­ern­ment to mon­i­tor the con­tacts of its cit­i­zens. But for doing so, at least the apps them­selves must be pub­lished in the offi­cial Google and Apple stores — and could, there­fore, be com­pared with the bina­ries com­piled on the base of the code in the pub­licly acces­si­ble repos­i­to­ry: If there is a (great) dif­fer­ence, the review­er would notice, that there is some­thing strange

Hence, we may trust this work and we should use it for pre­vent­ing us from over­load­ing our health sys­tem.

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