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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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