Friday, May 13, 2005

Trust the Machine, Baby

I'm in the middle of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear. It's a really magnificent piece of work, one of the few almost-perfect "bridge" books. He conveys complex ideas about security in complex systems in a readily understandable manner, without ever compromising that this is a tricky, often counter-intuitive field..

He has an excellent essay on why voting machines are hinky as hell, and the very simple way to fix them. How simple? Two. Steps. And he makes one of my favorite points, one that ties into some things going on in the media distribution world - secrecy is not security.


SDM said...

I seem to remember hearing, at the beginning of last year, a comment made by the president of a company that manufactures these machines that he would do "everything in his power" to make sure Bush won re-election. While the notion that he had something to do with it is a little too conspiratorial for me, it's kind of an interesting footnote to all of this.

Of course, as the article itself mentions, the system has major problems beyond the computers. My three roommates and I registered to vote on the same day. We got our confirmation the same day. Yet, on election day, somehow one of my roommates supposedly wasn't listed on the "eligible to vote" list, which lead to her having to fill out a long form, only to discover, when she was done, "Oops, I just missed your name on the list."

Democracy in action, there.

Alex Epstein said...

Okay, John, I'm springing for Beyond Fear...

You might also be interested in Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things. Barry's a sociologist who's looking into why we're afraid of flying but not driving, afraid of terrorists but not hamburgers, etc.

Riyan Cilacap said...

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