Open-source software recently earned a new round of accolades as an educated benefit in schools and government offices. German state officials flunked Microsoft’s Office suite and turned to a well-known, non-proprietary, cross-platform replacement.
Meanwhile, Google agreed to pay a hefty penalty for continuing to track user location data. Considering Google’s worldwide cash influx, is $391 million just the cost of doing business?
Open source received some inciting financial commitments from the folks at Fastly — and non-monetary help is also flowing freely. Read on to learn the details.
Google Pays for Tracking Transgressions
Google will pay $391 million for continuing to track consumer location data after users turned that feature off. It is reportedly the largest multi-state data privacy settlement in U.S. history.
Hefty fines set the bar very low and create a cat-and-mouse game where the consumer is always the loser. To date, large fines have not changed anything, according to Chris McLellan, director of operations at the non-profit Data Collaboration Alliance. The data ownership advocate helped found the DCA specifically to help people and organizations gain complete control of their information to advance global collaborative intelligence.
“These companies can afford to absorb fines as a cost of doing business,” he said in a news release commenting on Google’s payment penalty.
McLellan is not against penalizing firms for flagrant violations of data protection regulations. But stiff fines fail to address the core issue of how personal data is obtained and processed.
“That is in part because of the way today’s apps and systems fragment information into databases, data warehouses, and even spreadsheets. These practices inevitably lead to unrestricted copying of data for the purposes of data integration. This high-profile settlement offers yet more proof that if we want real innovation without retribution in every field — think sustainability, health care, open banking, public services — we need to equip technologists with some new tools and approaches,” he countered.
Address Root Causes
McLellan sees a better approach with how dataware, blockchain, and other advances are emerging to support a more controlled approach to application development. He noted that the Zero-Copy Integration framework for which the DCA advocates is poised to become a national standard in Canada. It is also gaining traction in the U.S. and Europe. That approach offers a path forward for developers to deliver rapid digital innovation and meaningful data protection without getting hit with massive fines.
“Fines are not the answer. We need to look towards encouraging the use of new technologies, standards, and methodologies that help address the root causes of data chaos in the first place — silos and copies. How data rights and ownership evolve will determine the winners and losers in our future economy. We are now witnessing a fight to own the future by owning data,” McLellan said.
German Schools Give Microsoft 365 an ‘F’
Yet again, some factions within the German government have banned Microsoft 365 over privacy concerns. The first ban happened in 2019 for German schools in the state of Hesse.
Microsoft’s recurring bad grade brings open-source software — in this case, LibreOffice — to the rescue. Hesse state officials and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein plan to switch 25,000 Windows PCs to Linux and LibreOffice in their administrative offices and schools.
The German Data Protection Conference (DSK or Datenschutzkonferenz) banned the use of Microsoft Office 365 in schools across the country in September. DSK consists of independent German federal and state data protection supervisory authorities, which cited various privacy violations Microsoft failed to fix since the first banning.
During that interval, negotiations failed to ensure Microsoft’s compliance with European data protection standards. DSK officials felt that Microsoft did not comply with the GDPR and faulted Microsoft for displaying a consistent lack of transparency.
According to media reports, the DSK discovered that Office 365 sends users’ personal data to the U.S., making that data accessible to American authorities. Thus, DSK advised private users not to use Office 365, suggesting they cannot trust Microsoft to handle their data.
Another Alternative To Avoid Proprietary Payments
Germany-based software manufacturer SoftMaker offers a handy cross-platform office. It also provides a free PDF editor called FreePDF, with improved features. The new FreePDF 2022 is available for the first time with a modern ribbon interface, which users already know from Microsoft Office applications.
SoftMaker also recently released a new version of its cross-platform office applications for the first time for iPhones and iPads. The office suite bundles TextMaker, PlanMaker, and Presentations with a customized feature set and user interfaces for iPhones and iPads. The free downloaded is available from the Apple App Store.
The market acknowledges SoftMaker Office’s compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats. Similarly, the new apps for iOS open and save Microsoft Office files in .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx formats. In addition to the free features, users can unlock several other advanced functions with a subscription, and users of SoftMaker Office NX can use these additional features free of charge.
Microsoft Wavers on Linux Support for Teams
Microsoft’s Linux App for Teams is no more. A progressive web app or PWA replaced it.
Microsoft introduced the Linux app for Teams in 2019 as a public preview. The switch was quiet as no official press release accompanied the drop; word of the change spread following a post by an administrator somewhere using Microsoft Teams.
Later, Microsoft said a Teams PWA on Linux supports background blur, custom backgrounds, reactions, and some desktop app-like features. But that might crimp availability for Linux users who prefer a different web browser.
Mozilla’s Linux Firefox browser does not offer support for progressive web apps. Though PWAs will work on Edge and Chrome browsers on Linux.
Free Fastly for Open Source
Fastly is committing $50 million in free services to help open-source projects. The company provides edge services such as CDN, WAF, bot protection, and DDoS mitigation. It also offers high-performance solutions and is a founding member of the Bytecode Alliance alongside Red Hat, Intel, and Mozilla.
Its support for open-source projects includes the H20 project, wit-bindgen, and Pushpin. Also, Fastly is involved with organizations such as IETF and W3C to contribute to various open-source protocols and standards.
Fastly’s initiative further expands its support to projects that freely distribute the company’s codebase and align with its open-source principles. The goal is to build a safer, more open internet with the help of its customers and community.
Interested parties can get involved in helping to grow open source by signing up for the Fast Forward Program. Anyone can apply, regardless of skill level, background, or geographic location.
All that is needed is a willingness to comply with Fastly’s open-source principles. They are open, inclusive, community-oriented, friendly to new contributors, and reliant on trust.