Next Big Electronic Voting Test 11 Days Away

Election Day in the United States – November 7 – is approaching fast. Issues with electronic voting, whether it’s the voting machines, the voter registration databases, or other problems with the process, continue to crop up in the press. This has led to some concern on the part of members of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which met yesterday in Washington, D.C. While the EAC, and representatives of voting system manufacturers and testing labs testifying at the meeting, implied the concerns over having votes stolen or other problems with the systems are overblown, those concerns are real and aren’t likely to disappear any time soon. In fact, a representative from Diebold appeared on Good Morning America this morning, and during his segment with Diane Sawyer he seemed unable to convince her that the machines would be completely secure or reliable. Many organizations and individuals will be paying close attention to this election, for a number of reasons. As the relevant laws vary from state to state, the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School has a good resource of election laws. Please consult this guide for election day rules, and your local election jurisdiction for rules about absentee voting, election observing, and provisional voting.
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Big Thinkers Thinking Big Thoughts About Computing, Part II

Update 10/30/06: Steve Lohr at the New York Times wrote a story about the symposium nicely weaving together the different presentations.

As mentioned in the previous post, The National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB) held a symposium to commemorate the Board’s 20th anniversary. Cameron blogged about the first half of the symposium, and I am writing about the afternoon sessions.

In general, these sessions were perhaps more technical and more speculative than the morning sessions. The theme of the event was what might be the state of computing in 2016, so this is understandable. As this is a policy weblog, I’m not going to go into great technical detail, especially when the presentations made will be placed on the CSTB website sometime soon. They will give a better technical explanation than I can in this forum.

A theme emerged in some speakers presentations. As the amount of information collected and accessible increases, how that information is processed becomes more and more important. In turn, the ability to do more processing allows the retrieval of information previously thought lost or otherwise unavailable. The storage and use of that information will have policy implications, as suggested in the USACM privacy recommendations released earlier this year.
Continue reading “Big Thinkers Thinking Big Thoughts About Computing, Part II”

Big Thinkers Thinking Big Thoughts About Computing, Part I

Update 10/30/06: Steve Lohr at the New York Times wrote a story about the symposium nicely weaving together the different presentations.

Update: David posted part two of this series here.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), it held an incredible symposium yesterday with luminaries speaking about what different segments of the computing field may look like in 2016. I’m going to summarize (but by no means comprehensively cover these detailed presentations) the more policy related talks from the first part of the day, and David is going to summarize the second half. Beyond what the world may look like in 2016, there is little of a unified theme in the wide-ranging subjects — research funding at mission agencies, 21st century business challenges, challenges to spectrum management, small networks research, sensor networks in the urban setting, digital photography and information retreival, just to name some of the topics covered in the symposium. CSTB is going to put the slides (and hopefully video) on the web.
Continue reading “Big Thinkers Thinking Big Thoughts About Computing, Part I”

Data Breaches Still a Problem

Update – October 16The House Government Reform Committee has released a Staff Report on the data breach information they have received. Perhaps as troublesome as the number of events is the extent to which agencies may be unaware of what they’ve lost.

Original Post – October 12

There have been a large number of data breaches in 2006, and many involved federal agencies. In June, USACM Chair Eugene Spafford testified on the problem in front of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. His testimony was prompted by the theft of a laptop containing veterans’ information that a VA employee had brought home. The recent and continuing breaches at Federal agencies reflect ongoing problems with data security, as Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) suggested recently. He asked for summaries of data breaches in federal agencies over the last three years. Not all agencies have responded, but Davis noted in late September that the Department of Commerce could not account for more than 1100 laptop computers, including some with census information. With data breaches in the VA, the Department of Agriculture and elsewhere, this is a widespread problem.

The Office of Management and Budget is working on the problem, issuing data breach notification guidance in an effort toward greater transparency and consistency in data security. They support the data breach legislation introduced by Rep. Davis. Continue reading “Data Breaches Still a Problem”

ACM Washington Update, Volume 10.9 (October 6, 2006)


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] Computing Experts Tell Congress Paper Trails are Needed for E-voting
[3] USACM Member to Advise Government on Privacy Issues
[4] Competitiveness Legislation Stalls Before Congress Heads Home
[5] New Heath IT Legislation Moves Forward
[6] Additional Offshoring Research Mirrors ACM Globalization Report
[7] About USACM
Continue reading “ACM Washington Update, Volume 10.9 (October 6, 2006)”

Election Assistance Commission Seeks Comments on Voting Systems

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), formed as part of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), is taking responsibility for administering (among other things) the testing and certification (including re-certification and de-certification) of electronic voting systems. They have recently developed a draft procedural manual for testing and certification of voting systems. The EAC is seeking comments, and the comment period closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on October 31, 2006. This is a process-oriented document; for technical standards consult the EAC’s Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (these standards – the 2005 edition – take effect in December 2007).

The focus of the testing and certification manual is on the information needed on the voting systems and their manufacturers. This information will allow the EAC to administer certification per HAVA requirements and the relevant voting standards. Contents of the manual include:
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USACM Member To Advise Government on Privacy

Last week the Department of Homeland Security appointed Annie Anton (Professor of Software Engineering at North Carolina State University and USACM-EC member) to serve on the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. She is the second USACM member to join the panel. Dr. Lance Hoffman (George Washington University) was appointed to serve last year.

The Department created the panel two years ago to advise the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Chief Privacy officer on the numerous privacy issues the department faces. Given the scope of DHS’s activities – dealing with customs, Citizenship and Immigration Services, and TSA data just to name three data-intensive bureaucracies – the Committee has a pretty broad mandate. Since it was commissioned, the Committee has produced several reports for government managers and policy makers:

Congrats to our USACMers!