Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oscar Internet Voting Plan Attacked With Scary Stories, But NO SCIENCE!

Here is my Letter to The Guardian Newspaper, which as far as I know was never printed by them.

On Sat, Feb 4, 2012 at 2:48 PM, William J. Kelleher, Ph.D. wrote:

Dear Editor of The Guardian UK:

Your recent article about the plans to have Oscar voting done online falls far below your usual standard of responsible journalism. The article presents several scary stories about what security breaches “could” happen, but offers no FACTS to back up the fear mongering.

Here is one scary story, for starters: “Computer security experts have warned [of] … cyber attacks that could falsify the outcome but remain undetected.” Well, that is scary! But has it ever really happened?

The answer is a big NO! Internet voting has been conducted in Norway, Switzerland, India, Canada, and here in the US in several places, including West Virginia. In every case, technical and political experts, including officials and the public, were satisfied with the integrity of the vote. There were no undetected Leprechauns that snuck in and changed everyone’s vote. In Estonia one voter challenged an election by Internet voting, but the court rejected the claim after studying the evidence.

Mr. Dill, whom you quote as your authority, states a perennial problem for all large voting systems when he says you can’t know if your vote for A was really counted as a vote for B. But this is not just a problem for Internet voting. Unless you can see the raised hands of all the voters in a room, you can never know how, or if, your vote was counted.

In all representative democracies, the voters must rely on their representatives to do a responsible and professional job. That is what has happened in all Internet voting trials around the world – and it will happen in the votes for Oscar, too. Responsible officials can be trusted to pick professional technicians to set up the Internet voting systems. These technicians understand all the security threats Mr. Dill dredges up. They know how to mitigate each threat, and how to protect the integrity of the election.

Unfortunately, the writer of this article seems to have slipped a bit on his journalistic integrity. He fails completely to list all the successful Internet voting projects that I mentioned. Also, in one paragraph we are told that "30" computer scientists signed a letter warning of the dangers of Internet voting for overseas Democrats. Yet the writer then reveals that he told “the Academy's chief operating officer, Ric Robertson, … of the near-total unanimity of computer experts [that Internet voting was insecure].” Give me a break!

How does any credible writer get from “30” to “near-total unanimity”? There must be thousands of computer scientists in the world, and Dill was only able to recruit 30. For every successful Internet voting event, there were dozens of experts who worked on the project, and who knew it could be done. So, no "unanimity" there. I'll bet that NOT ONE of those 30, including Mr. Dill, has ever actually worked at setting up an Internet voting system. So, what do they know? Just a bunch of theoretical scary stories!

Also, the writer of this article made a statement about the hacking incident in Washington, DC which is, at best, misleading. He tells his trusting readers that “overseas voters were invited to vote by internet in a local election in Washington, DC.” Not exactly! The Internet voting system was opened to the public for its first ever test. This was definitely NOT “a local election,” but mere practice several days before the scheduled election. The practice showed that the system wasn't ready to be used; so, it was not used for the real election.

Your readers expect some balance in the articles they read. But they won’t get that unless they read this letter to the Editor.


William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Twitter: wjkno1
Author of Internet Voting Now!
On Kindle
And in paper

1 comment:

wjk said...

The Guardian smear is reprinted in the LA Times as an “original” Op Ed, at