Computer scientist Ronald Rivest has said that blockchain is not the right technology for voting, although it can find proper application in a number of other areas.
Rivest delivered his opinion at the RSA Security Conference, held in San Francisco earlier this week, technology-focused news outlet ITWire reported on Feb. 28. Rivest — who is a cryptography expert and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — called voting an interesting problem that requires a more stricter approach compared to many existing security applications. He said:
“Blockchain is the wrong security technology for voting. I like to think of it as bringing a combination lock to a kitchen fire or something like that. It’s good on its own for certain things but it’s not good for voting.”
“We need software independence”
According to Rivest, voting is an area that does not require hi-tech to work, and anonymity and secret ballots only complicate the process of audit. “Blockchain technology really doesn’t fit for a couple of reasons. One is that we have learned we need software independence,” Rivest said and further added:
“And if you do use some technology, use the paper ballots to check on it and you can do very well. We call this software independence, so you don’t need to trust the results because you trust some software. That’s a dangerous path to go down if you don’t need to go down that path and with voting we really don’t need to.”
Elaborating further on the matter, Rivest compared blockchain with garbage stored in forever. “Once they’ve had the chance to manipulate your vote, it goes on the blockchain and never gets changed again,” he concluded.
E-voting comes under criticism
Rivest’s speech came on the heels of the Iowa Democratic Caucus scandal, when a mobile software application that had been devised to help calculate the total number of votes in the voting reportedly malfunctioned, resulting in the Democratic Party having to delay its public reporting of the results.
Following the event, blockchain-based applications were heavily criticised by regulators, with many political commentators and media analysts speaking out against mobile- and blockchain-based voting technology.
In the meantime, companies on the forefront of blockchain technology realize the potential of the products they are developing to not only transform the global economy, but also the way voters cast their ballots. Most recently, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab unveiled a new type of a blockchain-based voting machine using Polys, the system released back in November 2017 designed to be an effective and secure way to vote online.
Earlier in February, India’s Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that the country will soon be able to cast votes from outside their city of registration thanks to a blockchain-based system. With this move, the government hopes to increase voter turnout.