We need to oppose government mandated closed source apps

Many government around the world, in the transition to digital services, have been making installing a government app on a cell phone the only channel available for exercising a right or complying with an an obligation. There are two main problems with this:

  • the app’s source code is almost always not available. Closed source apps are not transparent and can contain tracking code for mass surveillance. The development of the app is paid for with public resource should be available for the public – not only for transparency reasons, but also to be bug fixed, improved upon and reused by public administration elsewhere, thus saving and optimizing resources and time. Please see Free Software Foundation Europe’s campaign Public Money, Public Code
  • the app is almost always only available on the proprietary app stores, Google Play and Apple Store. This, in a government app can suddenly transform these private companies’ terms of service into binding law, as a citizen does not have the option to refuse them. This is probably an illegal practice in many places around the world. Government apps should be mandated to be available in free and privacy respecting app stores like F-Droid. Also, the same service that is available in an app should be necessarily available also on the open web.

What do you think? How can we oppose this practice? Is this idea within the scope of the Open Knowledge Justice Programme?

Hello @herrmann,

I agree that this is an important issue that needs addressing. Currently the Open Knowledge Justice Programme is focused on working with lawyers, both to train them on understand AI & algorithms, but also to create case studies for documenting legal approaches to challenging problematic uses of algorithms.

I do see some cross section with our focus on AI and algorithms, but as the programme is just starting, we’re trying to stay focused on our target audience. The scope will probably expand in the future, but I can’t say when.

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