FSFE supporters Vienna

Reports from the FSFE supporters group in Vienna

FSFE information stall on Veganmania Rathausplatz 2023

October 26th, 2023

FSFE information stall in October 2023 in Vienna on Rathausplatz
Detail of FSFE information stall in October 2023 in Vienna on Rathausplatz

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Veganmania summer festivals this year a third instance of the festival took place between October 6th and 8th. It was the biggest ever. And once more volunteers of the local FSFE supporters manned an information stall about free software and the relevance of independence on our computing devices.

It is somewhat odd that over the years it has became somewhat daunting to describe the tested ingredients for a very successful information desk again and again. But we once more could use this opportunity to talk to many interested passers by and to tell them about the advantages free software grants its users and how important this is in a society that increasingly interacts using electronic devices. Therefore, it shouldn’t still surprise how well the comparably big and thick Public Money, Public Code brochures are received. I would never have guessed that such a large and rather technical take away would find so many people appreciating it enough to carry it around with them for hours. The newest delivery of materials ordered for this event were exhausted before the street festival concluded. Even if I have long switched to making specifically large orders because the usual information desk packages the FSFE office suggests wouldn’t even last for two hours on the events we take part in. Luckily we could at least re-stock our most important orange leaflet listing ten of the most widely used GNU distributions combined with a few words explaining the differences mid-way through the event because a print shop had open on the weekend and we could print it out early in the morning before people showed up for the street festival.

Despite taking place in Autumn the weather was mostly very mild. Unfortunately, on the last day rain still caught up with us by slowly growing stronger from a very light spree to proper rain. Therefore, it was hard to decide when we should actually pack-up our information material in order to protect it from getting destroyed by the rain. Especially because the people on the festival didn’t seem to mind and carried on visiting our desk. But at some point stapling the leaflets under our umbrella wasn’t good enough any longer and we needed to remove the top soaked through materials and finally pack-up. So we quit an hour early but probably didn’t sacrifice very much potential. At least this way we ourselves had the chance to actually grab some delicious food from the plentiful offerings at the Veganmania.

Our posters have become rather worn out over the years and don’t look very well any longer. We need to replace them. Probably made out of more resilient material than paper. Then the constant putting them up with sellotape and removing it after our information desks are done shouldn’t have an irreversible effect on them any longer.

But the end of the event wasn’t all that came from: This time a manager of a volunteer-led local museum was quick to follow-up on our recommendation to not throw away older laptops that couldn’t run the pre-installed proprietary operating system any longer. And it wouldn’t be a good idea either because there wouldn’t be any further security updates either. So, a few days after the event we installed GNU systems with a lightweight desktop on four laptops and she also asked for a talk in the museum where we could explain the value of free software. And she even suggested that she could make a lottery among the attendees to win two of the revived devices. It is planned to happen at some point next year. We are looking forward to that.

FSFE information stall on Veganmania Donauinsel 2023

September 3rd, 2023

FSFE information stall in August 2023 in Vienna on Donauinsel
Detail of FSFE information stall in Sugust 2023 in Vienna on Donauinsel
Detail of FSFE information stall in Sugust 2023 in Vienna on Donauinsel

On the second Veganmania street festival this year taking place on the Danube island in Vienna from August 25. to 27. we finally managed to borrow a sturdy tent. We could get it for free from a local animal rights organisation. This was great for withstanding the high temperatures during the event because it provided urgently needed shade. The only downside was that the name of the well known organisation was printed onto the tent. This caused many people to mistake our information stall for one of this other organisation despite none of our banners, posters and information indicated any relation to this subject or organisation – at least on first glance. Of course this didn’t hinder us to clarify the confusion and to point out the most important subject on our desk: independence on personal electronic devices.

As usual many people did use this opportunity to learn more about free software and the advantages it brings. Other than that we had many encounters with people who already use free software and were as happy as surprised to find us at this event. Of course we could easily give the reasoning why we feel that free software is a perfect addition to a vegan lifestyle. After all, most people decide to go vegan because they don’t want to harm others. And if you apply the same thought to the world of software you end up with free software.

Again I need to order more information material for the next instalment of our information desk on 8. and 9. October this year at the third Veganmania summer festival in Vienna in front of the city hall. Usually there are only two Veganmanias each year but since it is the 25. anniversary of the event in 2023 a third one will take place at this prestigious and hard to get location.
We noticed an interesting re-occurring phenomenon concerning a difference in how male and female people approach our information desk. Of course this is just a tendency and there are exceptions but in general most men will only approach our desk because they already know about free software and they want to check out what material we do offer. And female visitors of our desk mostly aren’t familiar yet with free software but are willing to find out what it is about.

Many people were especially interested in ways to improve their privacy and independence on their mobile phones. Unfortunately many of those did use iOS devices and we couldn’t offer them any solutions on this totally locked down platform. Android is far from being ideal but it at least gives most users the opportunity to go for more privacy focused solutions. Even if they didn’t want to forego all proprietary software they can at least use F-Droid as an app store to add free software apps to their mix. And it is of course always good to know that you can actually upcycle your mobile after the original OS stopped providing security updates by installing a free alternative Android system like LineageOS.

Especially the brochure for decision makers in the public sector investigating what advantages free software brings to the table in this area is still in higher demand than I anticipated. I really need to order more of those.

A large amount of different stickers seems to attract many people. I need to replace some of my over the years rather worn out posters. And I am still not certain if I should actually invest in my own tent because one that can withstand wind, rain and many years of service isn’t cheap. But using a tent with the information of an other organisation printed on it hasn’t proven to be ideal for the confusion it creates.

I also consider joining the annual Volksstimmefest with our FSFE information stall, but I am not convinced how good this idea is because it seems to be more focused on concerts and has a clear tendency to be a left wing political event. Since I don’t consider free software to be a predominantly left wing subject I am somewhat reluctant to position it so clearly in this spectrum.
Manning the desk for three days was somewhat exhausting since my usual helper couldn’t be there due to a clash of appointments. Nevertheless, I consider the information desk on Veganmania 2023 on the Danube island as an other successful event where I was able to inform many people about ways to improve their independency in the digital realm by employing free software.

FSFE info booth at the Veganmania MQ-Vienna 2023

June 7th, 2023

FSFE information stall in June 2023 in Vienna in front of the MQ
FSFE information stall in June 2023 in Vienna in front of the MQ

From the 2nd to the 4th of June, the first of this year’s three Vienna Veganmania Summer Festivals took place at Vienna’s Museumsquartier. Naturally, once again our local FSFE group was present with the traditional information booth.

Originally we were instructed by the organizers surprisingly to set up at another, less favorable stand location, because apparently it was not permitted to have our usual place. But after about two hours the head of the district came by and demanded that we finally set up the stand at our usual corner again. This was fine with us, because we had a wall behind us and could enjoy the shade for the whole afternoon, although this year all three days were cooler than in previous years. And this was optimal, because it was much more pleasant to chat with the many people who visited our information booth. Rain was announced for Sunday morning, but we were lucky and accordingly our materials stayed dry the whole time. Nevertheless, we would be better off using a tent in the future so that we are no longer completely dependent on perfect weather if we want to avoid rain damage to our materials.

We had ordered supplies for some of our materials ahead of time, so we also had some new brochures and stickers available. However, we exhausted them almost entirely in the three days and we clearly need to reorder more materials for the two remianing events.

It was particularly amazing that the brochure Public Money, Public Code, which is quite large, thick and specific, was almost completely snapped up on the first half day. And this was not because we were offering it to an unsuitable target audience, but rather because a number of people came by who told us that they worked in administration and would find the brochures very interesting for this reason.

Almost all info booth visitors take our locally produced overview of 10 of the most popular GNU/Linux distributions with them. Especially popular are also the Free Your Android leaflets. Our locally produced Freedom and The Truth About Your Computer leaflets are no less popular. And of course our small assortment of FSFE stickers is no wallflower either. Even our somewhat outdated games leaflet is taken again and again. It certainly helps that we have had a <0AD poster stuck to our table for years. The game is of course an eye-catcher because of its still comparatively nice graphics, even if our poster is quite worn out by now and could definitely be replaced.

Certain info posters in particular need to be re-produced because the paper no longer looks so attractive due to repeated use and the ravages of wind and rain. It might be worthwhile to have them printed on plastic so that such environmental influences cannot cause any damage. We have been wanting to add a practical install-guide to our equipment for some time. Unfortunately, we have not yet had the opportunity to put this plan into practice.

This year we met comparatively many interested people who already work professionally with Free Software themselves and we discussed some possible synergies. We have to temper our hopes, however, because experience shows that many people have spontaneous ideas but do not take them up later. Time will tell what emerges from our many constructive conversations.

But of course, the diversity of people at our information booth was much greater. As usual, we were able to reach people who had never heard of Free Software. However, many already knew at least the term Open Source and quite a few had tried a free operating system themselves at some point. Nobody reported unpleasant experiences. However, some people described the problem of the network effect, which eventually led them to switch back to proprietary solutions. Others had gotten free systems from acquaintances and simply used what came pre-installed when buying new devices. However, they had obviously not lost their interest, because they came over to us voluntarily and struck up conversation.

Only one person told us that they were happy with their proprietary equipment and did not want to change anything. Several visitors to the information stand remarked that they had visited us at our information stand several times before. Little strokes fell big oaks! 😉

The wind blew the FSFE balloons around a lot and sometimes we had to catch them because they came loose. The bottom line in this regard is that we learned that it is more practical to display only one or two inflated and give them to people uninflated, as most kids seem to enjoy inflating them.

In conclusion, we can happily announce that this information stand was once again a complete success. It once more proved that it is worthwhile to intentionally go outside the usual Free Software environment.

FSFE information desk on Veganmania Danube Island 2022

September 6th, 2022

It was the usual information stall like described several times before in this blog. Unfortunately I didn’t have time yet to write more about it. I created an updated information leaflet and really should get a tent because this time we had heavy rain twice and it was very hard to protect the paper materials with only an umbrella as cover.

FSFE Information stand at Veganmania MQ 2022

June 26th, 2022

FSFE Information stand at Veganmania MQ 2022

FSFE information stall on Veganmania MQ 2022

From 3rd to 6th June 2022 happened the Veganmania street festival at the Museumsquartier in Vienna. Despite not happening for two years due to the Corona pandemic this over the years has developed into the biggest vegan street event in Europe with tens of thousands visitors everey day. Of course there have been plenty of food stands with all kinds of climate and animal friendly delicious meals but the festival had also many stands for buying other stuff. In addition many NGO tents were there too to inform about important issues and their work.

Like already tradition for many years also the local volunteers group manned an FSFE information stand from Friday noon until Monday night. It was exhausting because only two volunteers manned the stand. But we both stayed there the whole time and the interest of so many people had confirmed once more how well we optimized our information material assortment without losing the ability to bring everything at once using just a bicycle.

The front of our stall was covered with a big FSFE banner while the sides are used for posters explaining the four freedoms and GnuPG email encryption. (We very soon need to replace our old posters with more durable water resistant paper since the old one has gotten rather worn down and doesn’t look very sleek any more with all the tape pieces it is hold together.) In addition we use a small poster stand we built ourselves with just two wooden plates and a hinge. This was of left over material from a DIY center. Unfortunately this time we didn’t have any wall behind us where we would have been allowed to put any posters or banners on.

Also our usual leaflet stack has proven to be very handy. Since most people talking to us are not yet familiar with free software the most important piece is probably our quick overview of 10 different free software distributions. It is just printed in black and white in a copy shop but on thick striking orange paper. This way of production is rather important because it is very easy and not to costly to quickly print out more if we need to. It also allows us to adapt it often for new developments because we don’t have a big stack which might become outdated. Experience also shows that the generous layout with enough border space to write ad-hoc or very personalised links onto the matte paper comes in handy in almost all conversations. The thick paper it is printed on gives it also a much more valuable touch.

Less tech savvy people find a good first information in our local version of the Freedom leaflet which is basically RMS book Free Software, Free Society distilled into a leaflet. It combines this basic conceptual introduction using tools as comparison to software with some practical internet links to things like privacy friendly search engines, and a searchable free software catalogue.

Our leaflets Free Your Android and the one on GPG email encryption find much interest too. And of course many people like taking the There is no cloud … just other peoples computers and some other creative stickers with them. Our beautiful leaflet on free games attracts people too but this time after the event someone reported back that our link led him to kind of a Japanese porn page. After some back and fourth we discovered he tried to type a capital o instead of a zero in the link: play0ad.com. We did use this folder for years and he was the first to report back that the link didn’t work for him. Unfortunately we still have many of those games leaflets. I suspect in future we should point out that the link contains a zero and no capital letter.

We also consider putting together a more detailed walk-through for installing free software on a computer and we often hinted people to check out different distributions by visiting distrotest.net.

Normally we don’t even have time to get something to eat because we usually talk to people until after all other stands have closed up. But because we do not have a tent we needed to protect our material on two evenings from the storm in the night. So we closed up an hour early (about 9pm) and could still get some delicious snacks.

It has been a very busy and productive information stand with lots of constructive talks and we are looking forward to the next information stall on the Veganmania in August on the Danube island. Hopefully we have managed to renew our posters and information material by then.

FSFE information stall on Veganmania 2021

August 31st, 2021

FSFE information stall on day 1
FSFE information stall on day 2
FSFE information stall on day 3

Due to the Corona lock down we couldn’t man the traditional information stall at any Veganmania summer festival in Vienna in 2020. So we where pleased that from 27 to 29 August 2021 we were able to be present on one again. Officially, about 12.500 people visited the event each day this time and we had many encounters with people eager to hear our arguments for free software. Many hadn’t even heard about free software before. Others knew about open source or Linux. And of course we also met many people who already use free software at home or at work. In fact, maybe even more than ever before on those information stalls – except of course for those on our local Linux Week events.


On the first day we needed to pull out our plastic cover for our information material twice because short bursts of rain challenged our intent to inform people about independence on their own electrical devices. Unfortunately, we do not have a tent for this purpose yet. (It would be rather expensive and might prohibit us from being able to transport everything we need at once on a bicycle.) But fortunately, the weather remained stable for the rest of the weekend. Over all we had mostly ideal weather conditions since in previous years the summer heat was almost unbearable at times. This weekend, staying for hours in the open wasn’t an issue at all.

People and safety

Maybe due to the fact that people hadn’t been to such events for quite some time, it was was very well attended. Despite the huge interest, the organisers kept everyone safe by closing off the area and only letting people in who could show a recent negative Corona test or who already could prove they were immunised either by having recovered from the infection or by being fully vaccinated.

We often had to answer the question why the FSFE of all organisations was present on an event focusing on veganism. We gladly explained our reasoning: Most people chose a vegan life style in order to protect the well being and rights of those not having the power to protect themselves. If you transfer the same reasoning into information technology you end up with free software because there as well, the main concern is protecting the rights of all users and to ensure fair conditions for everyone.

Information material

Once more our information materials proved to be useful for this not usually very technical audience. Especially our introduction leaflet to the idea for freedom in technology and our locally produced practical overview of well known distributions came in very handy. In addition, the guide for email encryption and the stickers and post cards with motives like: “I love free software, but I love you more …”, “There is no cloud, just other peoples computers.” and some other funny freedom related stickers found many happy new owners.

A short time ago I found the domain distrotest.net and was very pleased by how easy this web page makes it to explore different free software distributions. It is simply fun to quickly test many desktops by starting virtual machines directly in your browser. The people I told about it, obviously liked this prospect too. I will certainly include a link to this in future versions of our distribution overview leaflet.

Another well received leaflet we hadn’t had on our desk in previous years was a short practical guide on computer security for activists. In this we didn’t go into complicated advanced stuff but rather very practical things everybody can do to improve the trustworthiness of their used system. It elaborates on 12 very basic things like creating backups and using a password manager or using software as a service only if there is no other possible way of doing things. It also explains why relying on well known centralised social media platforms can be especially dangerous if you want to challenge powerful institutions as an activist.

In addition we made good use of our little local online list of free software experts on freie.it who are ready to help out in case people lack the time or patience to dig through the extensive amount of online documentation and guides if they get stuck at any point in their adventure into the joyful free software world.


I want to thank the very knowledgable volunteers who spontaneously dropped by and helped me to man the FSFE stand this time. Even if there wasn’t much opportunity to talk to each other they did a fabulous job at taking care of those who wanted to learn more about our common cause: free software.

FSFE information stall on Animal Welfare Run in Vienna

October 6th, 2019

FSFE information stall on Tierschutzlauf 2019
FSFE information stall on Tierschutzlauf 2019

At the 9th annual Tierschutzlauf (Animal Welfare Run) in Vienna on Sunday October 6 2019 the local FSFE supporters manned a little stall from about 9am to 4pm on Prater Hauptallee – a much visited recreation area in Vienna. The stall was little this time because we didn’t get more space than just one folding table. Therefore, we couldn’t use our banner. Instead we taped some posters around the table. This wasn’t ideal since they didn’t fit so well on the table because one of them would have been to narrow and two of them were to wide. But it worked rather well nevertheless. Many people stopped and read them when passing by. Often I could lure them closer to the stall by asking if I should tell them a little about the subject of the information stall.

Beside the runners registration tent and the changing tent, there were some delicious food tents. The other few information desks had animal welfare and veganism as their subject. So the FSFE desk was rather unexpected for many visitors. But since over 1000 runners participated and many brought friends and family there, the stand got a good amount of interest.

A few were active GNU/Linux users. Some had never heard of free software before and others had fleeting experiences with it many years ago. Especially the outlook on having software that they can trust seemed to motivate people to consider a closer look into it. Therefore, our introductory leaflets were taken with much interest. Many people wanted to free their Android phones and try email encryption. But as always, our distribution overview leaflet with an explanation on why open standards matter on the other side were very important. Of course the email self defense leaflets and the freedom leaflets were gladly taken too too.

In the morning I neglected to take the additional box with all the stickers but since we had only enough space for just one little folding table it wasn’t that bad since it was full already anyway. We had to leave our original spot but found an even better position where the stand was more visible to passers-by anyway.

The picture doesn’t show any people because we took it early in the morning right after setting up our table.

Unfortunately our posters were damaged when we removed them from the table in the end. So we should get a replacement soon. Since they have served us well for quite some years now despite being just made out of simple indoor paper that would get destroyed in rain anyway, we might get some prints on banner material to have something more durable.

Again the whole stand was transported using a normal bicycle this time even carrying the folding table when riding the bike since it was possible to hang it on the shoulder like a large bag. So it was a cheap and easy way to once more do some outreach work.

FSFE booth on Veganmania Donauinsel 2019

August 27th, 2019

Veganmania Donauinsel 2019
FSFE Information stall on Veganmania Donauinsel 2019

Once more free software activists from Vienna used the opportunity of the local vegan summer festival to inform about the possibility to increase our independence on computers and mobile devices. It was the second such event in Vienna this year. But unlike the first which was directly in the city center with loads of passers by this street festival took place in Viennas big recreation area on the island in the Danube river. It is rather close to the city center also and therefore many local people visit it in their spare time. The organisers estimated 9000 visitors per day.

The FSFE booth was manned there all the time from Saturday between 12:00 and 21:00 and Sunday from 10:00 to 19:00. It had a great spot far enough away from the stage with live music in order to allow undisturbed conversations and still close enough to the other 90 stalls with drinks, food, merchantise and a variety of stalls on other subjects like animal welfare, veganism sustainability, shelters and environmental protection.

Since it was an outdoor event on a meadow and because we don’t own a tent we couldn’t hang-up our posters. We just used our umbrella to not be exposed directly to the strong summer sun. And we had huge luck with the weather. Shortly after the festival was closed down on Saturday heavy rain started and it lasted until shortly before the event started again the next day.

Over the years we have collected a few regulars on our information stalls who normally drop by but again mostly totally new people frequented our FSFE information desk. Many of them had no prior knowledge what free software is about. Most of the time we were engaged in conversations with interested people and many explicitly thanked us for being there. We frequently explained why we man an FSFE information stall on a vegan summer festival: If you use the same ethical considerations that lead people to adopt a vegan life style in information technology you end up with free software.

A researcher explicitly came from an other county to the city because he wanted to visit our FSFE stall and talk to us about social implications of free software.

This weekend was an other very successful FSFE stall and we look forward to the next opportunity to man our information desk. We might even try to have stalls on other public events in the future which feature NGO information desks. At least if the fees are not unreasonably high.

Information stalls at Linux Week and Veganmania in Vienna

June 16th, 2019

Linuxwochen Vienna 2018
Linux Weeks in Vienna 2018

Veganmania Vienna 2018
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2018

Linuxwochen Vienna 2019
Linux Weeks in Vienna 2019

Information stall at Veganmania 2019
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2019

Information stall at Veganmania 2019
Veganmania at MQ in Vienna 2019

As has been tradition for many years now, this year too saw the Viennese FSFE volunteers’ group hold information stalls at the Linuxwochen event and Veganmania in Vienna. Even though the active team has shrunk due to former activists moving away, having children or simply having very demanding jobs, we have still managed to keep up these information stalls in 2019.

Linux Weeks Vienna 2019

The information stall at the Linux weeks event in May was somewhat limited due to the fact that we didn’t get our usual posters and the roll-up in time. Unfortunately we discovered too late that they had obviously been lent out for an other event and hadn’t been returned afterwards. So we could only use our information material. But since at this event the FSFE is very well known, it wasn’t hard at all to carry out our usual information stall. It’s less about outreach work and more of a who-is-who of the free software community in Vienna anyway. For three days we met old friends and networked. Of course some newbies found their way to the event also. And therefore we could spread our messages a little further too.

In addition, we once again provided well visited workshops for Inkscape and Gimp. The little talk on the free rally game Trigger Rally even motivated an attending dedicated Fedora maintainer to create an up-to-date .rpm package in order to enable distribution of the most recent release to rpm distros.

Veganmania MQ Vienna 2019

The Veganmania at the Museums Quartier in Vienna is growing bigger every year. In 2019 it took place from 7th to 10th of June. Despite us having a less frequented spot with our information stall at the event due to construction work, it again was a full-blown success. Over the four days in perfect weather, the stall was visited by loads of people. There were times when we were stretched to give some visitors the individual attention they might have wanted. But I think in general we were able to provide almost all people with valuable insights and new ideas for their everyday computing. Once again Veganmania proved to be a very good setting for our FSFE information stall. It is always very rewarding to experience people getting a glimpse for the first time of how they could emancipate themselves from proprietary domination. Our down-to-earth approach seems to be the right way to go.

We do not only explain ethical considerations but also appeal to the self-interest of people concerning independence, reliability and free speech. Edward Snowden’s and Wikileaks discoveries clearly show how vulnerable we make ourselves in blindly trusting governments and companies. We describe with practical examples how free software can help us in working together or recovering old files by building on open standards. Of course pointing to the environmental (and economic) advantages of using old hardware with less resource hungry free software is a winning argument also.


Alongside the introductory Austrian version of the leaflet about the freedoms free software enables, which was put together as a condensation of RMS’ book Free Software, Free Society, one of our all-time favourite leaflet features 10 popular GNU/Linux Distros with just a few words about their defining differences (advantages and disadvantages). I updated the leaflet just a day before the festival. I replaced Linux Mint, Open Suse and gNewSense with the recently even more popular Manjaro, MX Linux and PureOS. I also updated the information on the importance of open standards on the back. We have run out of our end-user business cards for our local association freie.it which makes knowledgable people available to others searching for help. Therefore, we decided to use the version we originally designed for inviting experts to the platform. It obviously was wrong to order the same amount of cards for both groups. Our selection of information material seems to work well as an invitation for people to give free software a try. Of course it feels probably also like a safeguard that people can contact me if they want to get my support – or that of someone else listed on freie.it.


The first day was rather windy and we had to carefully manage our material if we didn’t want to have our leaflets flying all over the place. In the very early morning of the second day the wind was so strong that some tents where blown away and destroyed. There was even a storm warning which could have forced the organisers to cancel the event. Fortunately our material was well stored and the wind died down over the day. We also had to firmly hold-on to our sunshade because it was very hot, but beside that everything went fine.

It was just coincidence that Richard Matthew Stallman had a talk in Vienna on the evening of the first day of the Veganmania street festival. So at least one of us could take this rare opportunity to see RMS at a live talk while the other carried on with manning the information stall.

As we didn’t have our posters on Linuxwochen we investigated where they were and got them sent to us via snail mail just in time. We didn’t only get our posters but merchandise too. This was a premiere for our stall. It was clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t sell many shirts since most designs assumed prior knowledge of IT related concepts like binary counting. The general public doesn’t seem very aware of such details and people don’t even get the joke. (If we had had the same merchandise at the Linuxwochen we probably would have sold at least as many items despite having reached a much smaller crowd there.)

Outlook and thanks

There will be another information stall at the second Veganmania in Vienna this year, which takes place in end of August. The whole setting there is a little different as there isn’t a shopping street nearby but instead, the location is on the heavily frequented recreational area of Vienna’s Danube Island. Just like last year, it should be a good place for chatting about free software, as long as the weather is on our side.

I want to thank Martin for his incredible patience and ongoing dedication manning our stall. He is extremely reliable, always friendly and it is just a real pleasure working with him.

Thanks to kinderkutsche.at, a local place to rent and buy carrier bicycles, we could transport all our information material in a very environmentally friedly way.

Datenschutz besser richtig

May 25th, 2018

Es wirkt auf den ersten Blick beeindruckend, dass sich die EU dazu durchringen konnte eine teilweise sehr strenge Datenschutzgrundverordnung zu erlassen. Doch das Ergebnis erscheint mir aus mehreren Gründen höchst fragwürdig.


Die DSGVO schafft keine klaren Regeln. Die rechtlich nötigen Abwägungen sind ebenso komplex wie ihre Effektivität ungewiss ist. Die technischen und administrativen Anforderungen überfordern kleine Datenverarbeiter_innen und stellen sie dadurch unter Druck ihre Datenverarbeitung großen Konzernen zu überlassen. Das weiterhin völlig ignorierte Problem der proprietären Software konterkariert die sonst strengen Auflagen. Zusätzlich lässt das SHIELD-Abkommen weiterhin Praktiken zu, die klar dem Zweck des Datenschutzes widersprechen. Die Zentralisierung der Sammlung von personenbezogenen Daten wird mit der DSGVO unterm Strich sogar noch verstärkt und so das Problem einer unterschiedlichen Behandlung von Einzelpersonen gemäß beliebiger Selektoren vergrößert.

Erschwerend kommt noch hinzu, dass die Besonderheiten einer Arbeit mit Ehrenamtlichen offenbar nicht bedacht wurden. Ehrenamtliche sind weder Kunden, noch Angestellte. Sie sind nicht weisungsgebunden, arbeiten aber trotzdem mit. Welche Rechte und Pflichten sollen für sie gelten?

Wir tauschen mit der DSGVO den vielleicht unerwünschten Bettelbrief eines kleinen lokalen Vereins gegen eine vollständige Analyse unserer täglichen Aktivitäten und den Weiterverkauf der Erkenntnisse an all jene, die für diese Daten bezahlen wollen. Wir können jedenfalls nicht erwarten, dass die DSGVO uns davor schützt Aufgrund unserer protokollierten Aktivitäten unfreiwillig unterschiedlich behandelt zu werden. Leider führt das nicht nur dazu, dass uns je nach Wohlstand und Lebensstil unterschiedliche Produkte und Preise gezeigt werden. Auch Regierungen behandeln auf diesem Weg ihre Bürger_innen gezielt unterschiedlich. Das ist kein kein abschreckendes Schauermärchen, sondern auch in Österreich längst gelebter Alltag. Es ist beispielsweise längst normal, dass Parteien Facebook dafür bezahlen Menschen unterschiedliche Botschaften anzuzeigen – je nachdem welche frei wählbaren Attribute auf sie zutreffen. Und Facebook darf laut DSGVO als Unternehmen im SHIELD-Abkommen weitermachen, wie bisher.

Sowohl die Datenschutzanforderungen als auch die Rechtsunsicherheit und das Ausmaß der möglichen Strafen können praktisch nur von riesigen Konzernen bewältigt werden. Deswegen kann die neue Datenschutzgrundverordnung nur den Effekt haben, dass immer mehr personenbezogene Daten vernetzt ausgewertet werden und wir als Einzelpersonen immer weniger Chancen haben uns dieser systematischen Durchleuchtung und automatisierten Klassifizierung zu entziehen.

Eine theoretisch starke Grundlage

Laut DSGVO ist die Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten (Namen, Adressen, Telefonnummern, Nutzungsprofile, etc.) grundsätzlich verboten. Das ist ein wesentlicher Fortschritt weil Datenschutz damit zur Grundvoraussetzung wird. Es macht jede Verarbeitung persönlicher Daten zu einer Ausnahme, die gut begründet sein muss. Personenbezogene Daten dürfen demnach nur unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen verarbeitet werden. Alle müssen dokumentieren wie sie welche Daten erheben, verwalten, absichern und verwenden und sie müssen auch darlegen aufgrund welcher Ausnahmen sie der Meinung sind das tun zu dürfen. Zusätzlich muss das den betroffenen Personen rechtzeitig, unübersehbar und gut verständlich kommuniziert werden.


Die Stärke der Konzeption von Datenschutz als Grundvoraussetzung ist leider auch gleichzeitig eine beachtliche Schwäche: Erst Gerichte entscheiden im Streitfall ob eine argumentierte Begründung für die Ausnahme vom Verbot personenbezogene Daten zu verarbeiten akzeptiert wird. Das schafft Rechtsunsicherheit für all jene, die auf die Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten angewiesen sind. Es gibt nämlich dadurch keine klaren Vorgaben, deren Einhaltung sicherstellen könnte nicht bestraft zu werden. Datenverarbeiter_innen müssen ihre Aktivitäten erklären und darlegen aufgrund welcher Rechtsbasis sie meinen das alles tun zu dürfen. Das bevorzugt natürlich große Konzerne, die eigene Technik- und Rechtsabteilungen einrichten können, um ihr Risiko zu minimieren. Kleinere Unternehmen oder Vereine können diesen Zusatzaufwand nicht leisten. Es gibt mittlerweile viele tausende Seiten zur DSGVO, die eigentlich alle kennen und verstehen müssten, die persönliche Daten verarbeiten. Zusätzlich äußern Expert_innen zur DSGVO widersprüchliche Auffassungen darüber welche Maßnahmen notwendig sind.

Technische Anforderungen

Egal ob eine engagierte Bürgerin Unterschriften für eine Petition sammelt oder ob ein Konzern eine neue App herausgibt, die Gesprächsdaten weltweit auswertet. Die Datenschutzanforderungen sind für alle gleich. Ist es sinnvoll oder realistisch zu erwarten, dass eine Person, die sich zivilgesellschaftlich engagiert, zuerst mit Lösch- und Informationsvorschriften befasst, technisch entsprechende Routinen umsetzt und juristisch haltbar argumentiert wieso sie die gesammelten Unterschriften auf die detailliert durchgeplante Weise verwenden darf? Kann sie realistisch eine technische Zuverlässigkeit ihrer Datenverarbeitungslösung im Qualitätsausmaß von Google gewährleisten? Können wir von ihr erwarten jederzeit innerhalb kürzester Zeit auf Anfrage eine Komplettaufstellung aller Daten über eine einzelne Person ausfolgen zu können?

Wir alle haben Unmengen von E-Mails und es ist auch im Prinzip möglich eine Liste mit allen einzelnen Nachrichten zu erstellen. Doch wenn die Kommunikation mehr als nur wenige Nachrichten umfasst und eventuell andere Kommunikationskanäle wie Telefon oder Messenger-Dienste im Einsatz waren, ist es uns nur unter großem Aufwand – und vermutlich nicht lückenlos – möglich diese Daten zusammenzustellen. Das wäre nur über eine völlige Zentralisierung all dieser Kommunikationskanäle mit vertretbarem Aufwand realisierbar. Eine Datenbestandsabfrage kann schnell zum Alptraum werden wenn wir sie ernst nehmen und nicht nur lapidar antworten, dass wir natürlich irgendwo in irgendeiner Form alle Nachrichten haben, die sie uns über verschiedene Kanäle geschickt hat. Ähnlich unrealistisch erscheint mir die Anforderung all diese Daten zuverlässig löschen zu können.

Wenn die Datenschutzauflagen tatsächlich ernst genommen werden, dann sind sie unvereinbar mit der gängigen Praxis. Bei großen Konzernen ist es noch irgendwie vorstellbar, dass es ihnen gelingt mit großen Teams Prozesse zu entwickeln, die DSGVO-konform sind. Die meisten Vereine können noch nicht mal eine Systemadministration finanzieren. Kleine Datenverarbeiter_innen haben meiner Einschätzung nach zum Beispiel keine Chance die Verfügbarkeitsanforderungen der Infrastruktur oder Informations- und Löschpflichten technisch umzusetzen, da in vielen Hinsichten keine Software mit den dafür nötigen Funktionen existiert. Datenschutzberater_innen empfehlen daher jetzt tatsächlich die Nutzung zentralisierter Datensammler wie Google. Unabhängige Lösungen erscheinen ihnen als zu gefährlich weil sie erkennen, dass die Datenschutzanforderungen klein strukturiert nicht praktikabel erfüllbar sind.


Der Umstand, dass laut DSGVO Privatpersonen wegen Datenschutzverletzungen selbst dann Schadenersatzforderungen einklagen können wenn ihnen kein messbarer Schaden aus der Verletzung ihrer Datenschutzrechte entstanden ist, lässt befürchten, dass dies eine Flut von Privatklagen aus beliebigen Gründen verärgerter Personen provoziert. Wer einem Unternehmen schaden will, kann zu diesem Zweck absichtlich Kontakt herstellen und dann seine Auskunftspflicht in Anspruch nehmen und die Löschung beantragen. Das allein wäre in vielen Fällen sicher schon eine erhebliche administrative Belastung. Wenn dann auch noch eine Klage hinzukommt weil die Person eine Lücke finden konnte, ist auch die Verwicklung in einen Prozess möglich, der durch die potenzielle Strafhöhe leicht einem Vernichtungsschlag gleichkommen kann.


Großkonzerne wie Google können nur Strafen von bis zu maximal 4 Prozent ihres Jahresumsatzes bekommen während selbst kleine Vereine mit einer Maximalstrafe von bis zu 20 Millionen Euro bedroht sind, die meist über das Zehntausendfache ihres Jahresumsatzes bedeuten. Das ist eine extreme Bevorzugung multinationaler Konzerne und behindert kleine Strukturen. Kleine Vereine werden mit dem Ruin und einer lebenslangen persönlichen Verschuldung des Vorstandes bedroht während große Konzerne schlimmstenfalls reduzierte Profite machen.


Laut DSGVO dürfen weiterhin Dienste von amerikanischen Unternehmen genutzt werden, die das SHIELD-Abkommen unterzeichnet haben. Darunter sind die ganz großen Unternehmen wie Facebook und Google, von denen bekannt ist, dass ihr Geschäft auf dem Handel mit personalisierten Daten basiert. Wie glaubwürdig ist eine Datenschutzmaßnahme, die nicht nur weiterhin den Betrieb genau jener Infrastrukturen erlaubt, die vermutlich der Anlass für den Wunsch waren ernsthafte Datenschutzgesetze zu erlassen, sondern die dazu führt, dass Datenschutzbeauftragte jetzt sogar von Alternativen zu globalisierten Diensten abraten müssen wenn sie ihre Klient_innen nicht der Gefahr aussetzen wollen Geldstrafen in vernichtenden Höhen zu bekommen? Wie kann gerechtfertigt werden, dass trotz DSGVO andere Leute weiterhin meine Kontaktdaten an Facebook übermitteln dürfen obwohl ich noch nicht mal auf Facebook bin? Ist es nicht genau diese Art unerwünschter Datenverarbeitung, die verhindert werden soll? Eine kleine NGO, die mir eventuell einen unerwünschten Newsletter schickt, ist aus meiner Sicht ein wesentlich kleineres Problem als ein weltumspannendes Verarbeitungssystem, das meine online-Aktivitäten praktisch lückenlos dokumentiert und die daraus gewinnbaren Rückschlüsse vermarktet.

Das SHIELD-Abkommen kann die unerwünschte Vermarktung von personenbezogenen Daten nicht behindern weil es sonst unmöglich wäre, dass genau jene Unternehmen im SHIELD-Abkommen sind, deren Haupteinnahmequelle die Vermarktung ebendieser Daten ist. Wer sich eine Rechtsabteilung leisten kann, die entsprechende Verträge aushandelt, kann offensichtlich weiter tun, was die DSGVO vermeintlich verhindern soll. Anders ist auch nicht erklärbar, dass zwar Facebook und Windows als kompatibel gelten aber ein Verschlüsselungsservice wie Signal nicht. Eine eigene Anwendung, deren Daseinsberechtigung verschlüsselte Kommunikation ist, entspricht nicht der DSGVO während ein System, das für den Handel mit personenbezogenen Daten bekannt ist, unproblematisch sein soll. Dabei tun beide nominell das Selbe: Sie verarbeiten personenbezogene Daten auf Servern außerhalb der EU. Freilich in wesentlich unterschiedlichem Umfang. Doch erstaunlicherweise gilt die beliebige Nutzung von vielfältigen Daten als weniger problematisch als die nur sehr gezielte Nutzung von wenigen Daten.

Riesige blinde Flecken

Wenn die DSGVO tatsächlich zum Ziel hat uns allen die Möglichkeit einzuräumen mehr Kontrolle über die Verarbeitung personenbezogener Daten zu auszuüben, dann ist es völlig absurd die großen Probleme zu ignorieren, die von proprietärer Software ausgehen. Nur Freie Software ermöglicht eine zuverlässige unabhängige Kontrolle der Abläufe in den eingesetzten Programmen. Uns weiterhin blind auf den bloß versprochenen Datenschutz in proprietärer Software zu verlassen, ist angesichts immer wieder aufgedeckter Skandale absurd. Wenn wir Datenschutz ernst nehmen wollen, können wir keine Software akzeptieren, die geheim hält, was in ihr passiert. Weder Geräte mit Windows, OSX, iOS noch Android erlauben uns eine echte unabhängige Kontrolle. Nur wenn wir eine lückenlos freie GNU/Linux-Distribution wie Trisquel einsetzen, haben wir wenigstens die Chance ausschließlich Werkzeuge zu nutzen, von deren Vertrauenswürdigkeit wir uns überzeugen konnten. Freilich setzt das voraus, dass wir nicht irgendeine Hardware kaufen und schon im Vorfeld Komponenten wählen, für die freie Treiber verfügbar sind.

Unterm Strich habe ich den Eindruck, dass gutgemeint nicht gutgemacht ist. Es zeichnet sich ab, dass die DSGVO in der Praxis zu mehr zentralisierter Datenverarbeitung (hauptsächlich in den USA) führt und kleine Unternehmen und Vereine gefährdet bzw. schwer belastet.

Dass die österreichischen Regierung plant die Datenschutzbehörde ohnehin nur Warnungen aussprechen zu lassen und niemanden bestrafen zu dürfen, verstößt höchstwahrscheinlich gegen EU-Recht.