Android OS: Closing The Door On Open Source?

Julie M. Anderson | | October 10, 2014

In recent weeks, the federal government has accelerated its efforts to promote the use of open source platforms as a way to improve the array of digital services it offers.  At the same, agencies are looking to secure the more powerful (but potentially vulnerable) landscape of mobile devices federal employees increasingly use in the workplace.  But when agencies make open source-driven decisions on which mobile operating systems they should entrust with data, the degree to which some companies have control over common operating systems, such as Android, is concerning.

Today’s federal IT landscape is quickly evolving. In the past month, the Federal Chief Information Officer Council released its U.S. Digital Services Playbook, calling for greater use of open source technologies. Meanwhile, the Obama administration tapped a leader to head its new U.S. Digital Service team to aid the implementation of such programs across federal agencies -- with an explicit mandate to employ open source solutions.

These endeavors also carry across federal mobility efforts, which include an estimated $2 million in spending on mobile device hardware alone.  These smartphones and tablets – a combination of agency-furnished and bring-your-own-device setups – are in the hands of thousands of government employees.  Many of these phones run the Android operating system, which is owned and managed by Google, but still purports to be an open source platform...