Your piece about Princeton University computer scientists hacking a Diebold voting machine (“How to Steal an Election,” November/December 2006) demonstrates a problem with a particular electronic voting machine but doesn’t articulate the corollary: voting security must be simple enough to be understood by the poll watchers who safeguard the vote count.
With paper ballots, volunteers at polling stations follow an easy procedure: verify that the ballot box is initially empty, watch the voters place ballots in the box, and watch as the box is opened and the votes counted.
With electronic voting, poll watchers must instead ensure that the voting-machine software has not been tampered with. Volunteers might know nothing about computers but must protect against fraud by hackers, employees of the voting-machine manufacturer, and the government officials operating the polling stations.
Electronic voting isn’t just an abstract computer security exercise; it must be secure when its guardians are nontechnical volunteers.
I paid special attention to Simson Garfinkel’s article about using technology–in the form of a chip that, roughly speaking, does for a car what a flight data recorder does for an airplane–to “spy” on his wife’s (and his own) driving behavior (“Spying On My Wife,” November/December 2006). I had recently been cited for “careless” driving because of an accident caused by a driver who made an aggressive lane change and slammed on his brakes. The “physical evidence” led the responding police officer to conclude that the fault was mine. The other driver had a chance to do the right thing by telling the truth and accepting the blame. Instead, he shifted the blame to me through a false statement.
I paid a small fine and the deductible on my insurance, a small price compared to the other driver’s loss of the respect of his three passengers. If Garfinkel is ever “at fault,” I would hope that he would do the right thing rather than, as he claims he would, deliberately lose his chip–and his self-respect as well.
John W. Mohr
Saint Charles, MO
In Praise of Print
I’m just writing to provide some positive feedback on your decision to keep the print edition and, moreover, to add essays to it (“From the Editor,” November/December 2006). I’m convinced that if the technology of written media had somehow developed in reverse, after centuries of reading articles on the Web, we would have heralded the invention of the printed magazine as a revolutionary breakthrough. Portable, high contrast ratio, resolution beyond the limits of human vision, and the ultimate in a tactile, flexible interface. Technology Review would be filled with articles trumpeting the end of the drudgery of scrolling through pixelated articles shackled to heavy devices, and humanity’s liberation by the invention of “multilayer nano-imprinted organic media.” It would spawn a print bubble in the stock market. Too bad such a good thing suffers from being invented too long ago to be sufficiently appreciated. But I say, Keep it.
Jonathan R. Birge