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France Adds Source Code To List of Documents Covered by Freedom of Information Laws ( 25

An anonymous reader writes: French freedom of information law now treats source code as disclosable in the same way as other government records. The new "Digital Republic" law took effect Saturday, with its publication in France's Official Journal. It adds source code to the long list of government document types that must be released in certain circumstances: dossiers, reports, studies, minutes, transcripts, statistics, instructions, memoranda, ministerial replies, correspondence, opinions, forecasts and decisions. But it also adds a new exception to existing rules on access to administrative documents and reuse of public information, giving officials plenty of reasons to refuse to release code on demand. These rules already allow officials to block the publication of documents they believe threaten national security, foreign policy, personal safety, or matters before court or under police investigation, among things. Now they can oppose publication if they believe it threatens the security of government information systems.
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France Adds Source Code To List of Documents Covered by Freedom of Information Laws

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  • If publishing source threatens the security of a system, then that system likely has some pretty big security holes waiting to be found, and having the source just makes it a little easier to find them.

    Most network firewalls and other security appliances are built on open code, and it doesn't result in them getting mass owned.

  • IP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2016 @12:06PM (#53062333)

    So a couple of things.

    They are probably just being thorough. Most FOI legislation I've seen is horribly ambiguous and vague, usually intentionally so. However those kinds of requests *do* come in, and then what do you do? I've seen asks for entire databases and applications. At least this way there is some direction, and even the latitude to refuse in certain reasonable situations.

    Second, if the French government is anything like most governments, they write very little code themselves. It is all done by contracted vendors. In some cases the government may insist on owning all IP. In other cases the IP will be owned by the company or contractor involved, which will likely make it unattainable anyway.

    Lastly there are plenty of examples where this *should* be the case, and that people need to be able to FOI source code in certain situations. Sometimes perhaps even *if* the IP is not fully owned by the government. A perfect example was a few years back in Florida with breathalyzers used by law enforcement. There was a class action law suit there where people wanted access to the source code because many felt that the readings and the software used to generate them were complete BS. After some time, where the company involved invoked "trade secrets", and was eventually fined everyday they didn't produce the code, had to produce it for review. As it turns out it was a complete POS and it had implications on untold number of probably legitimate and illegitimate DUI legal cases. While that was a private company, I can still think of a number of systems, applications, algorithms used to make decisions on a number of things that people may want to review, mostly probably for how well it is working and how fair it is to everyone involved.

    Anyway all this shows is France is being progressive insofar as FOI is concerned and keeping up with the times we currently live in...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In fact the main reason people asked for it (there was a public forum to propose and vote for proposals in digital policy) was to have public access to algorithms that have an influence on real life, such as the automated system that determines whether you will have the university you want or only your second or third choice in the post-highschool choice system.

  • Climate change simulations?
    • Climate change simulations?

      You're aware that the most of the generally-used General Circulation Models (what you call "climate change simulations") do have the source code publicly available, right?

      Here are some links (For the most part, they run on supercomputers, so don't expect to compile them for your little Windoze box.):

  • Software that functions as an information system (database interface) or other business intelligence system (reports) is simply a worker performing a document procedure. I don't see asking the source as anything different than asking for the SOP on how an agency handles their records scheduling, or develops reports they make decisions off of. Some time ago, humans did the same work, just slower and more prone to "error" (political fudging to serve a goal).

    The backend databases are a little grey. Returnin

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After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done.