Re: Communications of the ACM

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Fri Oct 01 2004 - 09:54:50 CDT

> Source availability and e-voting: an advocate recants
> by Jason Kitcat.
> A former proponent of requiring the availability of
> e-voting system source code explains why he no longer
> develops source-available e-voting software.
> He raises serious questions that we must also address, but
> we have already addressed some of these, and we ought to organize
> our answer carefully and present it in response to Kitcat's comments.

I'm still trying to get an account registered; I'll figure it out, and
hopefully gain access to the article.

But I already have a hunch that Kitcat will make a same error that
Mercuri does (and a lot of people). Namely: Seeing the issue of source
openness as a purely technocratic question, not as a fundamental
democratic principle. For me, it's the latter firstly.

Now, I ALSO know that making software open improves security and code
quality. That's the technocratic part, and I have nothing against
citing that evidence. But EVEN IF it did not have this advantage, I
would still find democracy important. You simply don't get democracy
out of procedural secrecy.

This principled requirement is no different--as I've analogized
before--to the requirement that laws be open. As a technocratic
matter, hardly anyone can really read and understand laws. Only
lawyers, generally, and even there only lawyer specialized in the field
of a particular law. In "practical" terms, it would not make that much
different if access to laws were restricted to active members of the
bar (I guess the bar of each jurisdiction).

But we should (and hopefully would, despite recent Aschroft moves)
recoil in horror at the notion of "secret laws" governing us. Even if
we never concretely exercise our right to read the laws governing us,
the right to do so is perhaps the most fundamental one we have. When I
read the close-source advocates wanting to abridge almost the same
fundamental right... well, it don't make me happy.

Yours, David...
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Received on Mon Nov 1 15:28:43 2004

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