In my previous blog posts about Solon I have mostly focused on the high-level interaction between Solon and Liquid Feedback. Now it is time to dive into the good stuff: the cryptographic e-voting algorithms that scientists have been developing since the 80's. But first, we need to understand our requirements. What does it mean to develop a secure e-voting algorithm?
Most academic articles on e-voting algorithms will begin with a recital of requirements for a secure election or secure voting. The list is quite long, so sometimes an article may omit some of these, but there is a well established consensus that what I will write about in this post is what a secure election is about. I have taken this list from a really well written overview of different e-voting algorithms: "A framework and taxonomy for comparison of electronic voting schemes" by K Sampigethaya, R Poovendran, Computers & Security, Elsevier 2006. I recommend you read it if you want a deeper understanding on this topic.
In my previous blog post I explained the concept of delegated voting and how to make it work together with cryptographically secure e-voting algorithms. In this post I want to describe actual data flows of Liquid Feedback, and how a secure e-voting system like Solon could be hooked into it. For those of you potentially interested in contributing to Solon, I hope this gives a high level idea of the design.
Everything explained here already exists. The
liquid_feedback_patch/ creates these hooks into Liquid Feedback Core and alters the calculation procedure so that it counts the externally provided results. The 0.1 version of Solon is able to support this data flow and gives you a simple UI to cast votes via Solon. The small detail missing is the actual "secure" part, the current version is just a mockup demonstrating the idea. After this post I intend to write more about the Acquisti e-voting algorithm that I intend to implement as part of Solon.
How delegated voting works in Liquid Feedback
To create a cryptographic algorithm for Liquid Feedback, we must start with understanding how the current (plaintext) voting works in Liquid Feedback. The concept is known as delegated voting.
Those who know me know how excited I am about open source as a phenomenon. I contribute to open source projects myself, but I'm just as excited about non-software incarnations about the same phenomenon. Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg or Open Clipart are obvious projects to mention. "Life in a day is an awesome movie that was mass-produced by thousands of Youtube users all around the world - things like this are only possible through the open source method. It's a bit embarrassing but I even get excited about viral videos and flashmobs.
One area that has not been discussed a lot - nor has there been much to discuss - is government. What would it mean to open source government? Yes, I'm aware of the so called Open Government and Open Data movements. This is mostly about publishing government owned data for public analysis. Social networking has also brought politicians closer to their constituents and thanks to this politicians seem to be more likely to be affected by public opinion (or outrage, as it sometimes happens) than before. All of this is great, and more transparency usually does good for the democratic process. But ultimately I don't see it as a revolutionary new way of government: the same old politicians from the same old parties remain in power while you play with their data.
The pre-voting has started in Sweden,and there are 15 days until election day.
We know it's true, now it's been scientifically proven. (At least pending an independent study for confirmation?) When a book gets onto p2p networks, there is a sales peak, not a decline:
Brian O'Leary, founder of publishing consultancy Magellan Media, measured the impact of peer-to-peer piracy on titles published by the US house O'Reilly for 71 weeks. At today's Tools of Change conference in Frankfurt, the first in Europe, he revealed that while non-pirated books (both print and e-books) showed a "trending decline" after an initial sales peak, the sample titles saw a second peak at the onset of piracy. From week 19, which is on average when titles began to be pirated, to week 23, which was the average second peak, sales rose 90%.
"Rick Falkvinge: Today is a good day for epic winnage.11 hours ago" (Facebook status of the Chairman of Swedish Pirate Party.)
The Swedish Pirate Party (the first of the many national Pirate Parties popping up) wins it's first seat (bordering on two, some votes still left to count) in the European Parliament tonight, with 7+ %. In percentages they drive right past 3 long time established parties from the Swedish national parliament.
This is a historical moment in the turns of copyright and even civil liberties movements. I've personally for years supported the EFFish approach (and member of the Finnish equivalent EFFI) of lobbying all political parties with rational arguments about how good copyright, patents and civil liberties legislation will benefit the economy and society in general. Maybe we have achieved something there, who knows how the world would look like without the EFF. I'm still a supporter of the basic principle of copyright, after all, Open Source licenses like the GPL actually rely on it.
While everyone else is doing predictions for 2009, I want to do something different and look about 10 years forwards and backwards: ie. finish my trilogy into the past and future of Open Source and Open Other Things - let's call it Free Culture for this post. The first part and the spark to this trilogy was Nokia acquiring Symbian followed by Open Source has arrived... where's the money?. So let's complete the circle and look at how Openness is doing outside the world of software...