Wednesday, October 28, 2015

If Volkswagen can program cars to cheat on smog tests, guess who can flip the vote?

For some of you that follow me on Twitter, you might recall the following tweet:

Then, not too long someone retweeted my tweet as follows:

This is the beauty of social media. Social media allows for the immediate sharing and distribution of ideas and concepts in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

Holly has made an interesting point. Volkswagen has been deceiving governments and the public about their efforts to defeat smog checks for years and no one noticed until a few short months ago.

If just one auto manufacturers are brave enough to defy the emissions testing regime in this country, and perhaps a few more, how far does the rabbit hole go?

Likewise, we must ask the same question of our voting machines and their manufacturers. We participate in elections to determine our collective fate, to craft and refine our social contract. If people in power want more power, it is tempting, very tempting indeed, for them to work with industry to circumvent the safeguards in place to prevent tampering with voting machines.

No matter which party you are with, both major parties, any party in power, can succumb to the temptation to interfere with elections to get the outcome they want.

It is interesting then to see that the Librarian of Congress, empowered to review DMCA restrictions and safe harbors, has expanded the exemptions in the law so as to permit circumvention of the locks that keep people out of car electronics. Of course, digital media is still protected. You can tinker with your car electronics so long as you avoid messing with anything that might interact with copyright protected content.

While it would seem obvious that we need the same protection to verify the security and proper functioning of our voting machines, we already know there are problems with them and have known about those problems for a long time. Giving people the power to tinker is nice, but that doesn't really solve the problem. Many states have considered abandoning electronic voting machines, and apparently, many have.

As we get closer to one of the most important elections of our time, an election that's basically a race between the people and the billionaires, we need to know for sure that our voting machines are working as designed. We need to know that they work for the people.

We can do this, from top to bottom. From the voting machines on the front lines to the machines that collect and tabulate the results, we can create open source systems that run on open source hardware that anyone can view to verify their functioning. Every bit of code can be verified with file verification through encryption algorithms.

Sure, it would take years to develop, but at least it could go a long way towards ensuring fair elections. If we can send a man to the moon, we can develop and implement a completely verified, open source voting system for us and the world. There is nothing to stop us from trying.

Oh, wait. There is. Big money in politics. If Bernie Sanders is right, then we may need a peaceful political revolution to institute the reforms our country so desperately needs.
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