The Corona Warn App as Open Source Software

Today, the Ger­man Coro­na-Warn-App was released as Open Source Soft­ware. You may know it as CWA. The jour­nal­ists most­ly received it pos­i­tive­ly, even those of Spiegel and Welt. The Ger­man gov­ern­ment want­ed to release it as open-source soft­ware. That should increase the accep­tance of the app by the Ger­man peo­ple. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is still some skep­ti­cism. Let me com­ment on some of these con­cerns:

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  • Some peo­ple say the CWA is not open-source soft­ware because it uses the (closed) API offered by Google or Apple. But the gov­ern­ment has released the sys­tem 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 the prin­ci­ples of open­ness and vol­un­tarism pre­vent this abuse. You can ver­i­fy that the code does not do any­thing for­bid­den or unde­sir­able — by ana­lyz­ing the pub­licly acces­si­ble code. Addi­tion­al­ly, no one enforces us 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 secret­ly will become a gen­er­al tool of the Gov­ern­ment to mon­i­tor the con­tacts of its cit­i­zens. But for doing so, the Gov­ern­ments must at least pub­lish the apps them­selves in the offi­cial Google and Apple stores. Thus, the skep­tics can them with the bina­ries com­piled on the base of the code in the pub­licly acces­si­ble repos­i­to­ry: If there is a (big) 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.

And in what way is this …

… part of the over­ar­ch­ing top­ic FOSS ? Well, my pro­fes­sion­al life is dom­i­nat­ed by free soft­ware and open source com­pli­ance. But some­times I find more off­beat tools that are still worth shar­ing — at least with my for­get­ful future ‘me’. To whom I like to rec­om­mend — for exam­ple — suit­able, advanced edi­tors. Or ancient prepara­to­ry work. Or some free music edi­tors for com­pos­i­toy work. But with some posts, I just want to remind my lat­er ‘me’ of atti­tudes, points of view, and atti­tudes. So that I don’t fall behind myself. That’s what it’s about in here too.

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