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1.9 Billion Digits: Brazil's Bid For Biometric Voting 140

Posted by timothy
from the countrymen-lend-me-your-fingers dept.
MatthewVD writes "Brazil is on a massive fingerprinting spree, with the goal of collecting biometric information from each of its 190 million citizens and identifying all voters by their biological signatures by 2018. The country already has a fully electronic voting system and now officials are trying to end fraud, which was rampant after the military dictatorship ended. Dissenters complain that recounts could be impossible and this opens the door for new kinds of fraud. Imagine this happening in the U.S."
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1.9 Billion Digits: Brazil's Bid For Biometric Voting

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  • Brother Jeb Bush, and friends ring a bell?
    • Re:Imagine?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by feedayeen (1322473) on Friday March 30, 2012 @07:56PM (#39530937)

      Brother Jeb Bush, and friends ring a bell?

      The debacle of the 2000 Florida election was because of paper ballots. If it was illegitimate (I am taking no position on this regard), then it proves that you don't need an electronic system to steal the election if there is systematic corruption already in place. Having an electronic election doesn't help or hurt election fraud in this case, however it does remove a few hundred (thousand?) people involved in counting/reading ballots, each of whom could be corrupt.

      • Re:Imagine?! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday March 30, 2012 @08:11PM (#39531023)

        Having an electronic election doesn't help or hurt election fraud in this case, however it does remove a few hundred (thousand?) people involved in counting/reading ballots, each of whom could be corrupt.

        It removes many who individually could have only a marginal impact on the results while at the same time increasing the size of the "lottery" - such that it is now:

        a) Possible for a single invidiual with the right access to corrupt the entire election
        b) Do it with much less chance of getting caught because purging an electronic audit trail is a million times easier than covering up physical ballot stuffing at thousands of polling stations

      • Re:Imagine?! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417) on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:30PM (#39531785)

        What it does, whether actual fraud takes place or not, is to open the door to allegation of fraud that cannot be refuted.

        I don't know about your country, in mine, every party that participated in the election has the right to call for a recount (at their expense) and send representatives to supervise that recount. Supervising such a recount is trivial. The skills needed by a superviser include being able to identify where a cross has been made on a slip of paper and being able to count paper slips. The average 6 year old should be able to do that with some certainty.

        That's not the case with e-voting. It all starts with being unable to tell whether every vote was counted correctly in the first place. Was every vote placed where the voter made his "cross"? With pen-and-paper elections, you have a physical slip of paper that is tossed into the voting bin by the person who votes. The voter goes into the booth, he makes his cross, he comes back out and he dumps a piece of paper himself into the box, under the eyes of representatives of every participating party. The box has been throughly inspected by them all to make sure it's empty before it was sealed, again with them identifying the seal, and they again are there when that seal is broken and the counting starts. There is simply NO way you could possible remove or add any votes illegally.

        Not so with electronic booths. Was the "box" empty? And even if, does the box only count every vote once? It's trivial to multiply datasets, how can I know for sure that the code doesn't do that? I can audit it? Let's assume I cannot, like more than 99% of the people out there. Why should I trust you, auditor? Maybe you're in with them and get a ton of money to shut up about their fraud? And how should I recount? I don't even know if the votes you present to me were real because there is no paper slip being tossed into the box, let alone by the voter himself. Did you make dead people vote? Or how do you explain the suspiciously high voter turnout this time?

        The problem isn't fraud alone. It's that you cannot simply debunk allegations of fraud easily. Today, you cry foul? Here's the ballots, you can see where the cross was made, you can count, go ahead and check. Your party member has been there all the time and he saw that our box was legit. It's trivial to check either for any person without handicaps. I'd wager about 99% of the voters could easily recount today and be part of the process that ensures that no fraud can happen.

        With electronic voting, more than 99% cannot.

        And now convince those 99+% that you have been elected legally when the losing parties cry foul and you cannot prove them wrong without reasonable doubt.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          In Brazil, every single party or entity (like universities, etc) has access to the full source code for the elecion systems, terminals and servers. The code is digitally signed by all those parties and any of them can ask for an independent audit. Random voting machines with printers are also spread out the country. Is there a room for fraud? Of course, no system is 100% secure but so far, no fraud was detected. With so many eyes looking at the whole process, nowadays only conspiracy theorists think there's

          • by Anonymous Coward

            So better than a completely unverifiable system, but worse that a paper ballot which is 100% verifiable.

            "nowadays only conspiracy theorists think there's been any fraud."

            No, why would you have less than 100% verifiable system? If you know paper printers are necessary, by putting them only on a FEW machines, you've simply signalled to the fraudsters which machines to leave with valid votes. The actual paper audit trail requires you take a verified paper trail of *everyone* then *after* pick the random select

          • Re:Imagine?! (Score:4, Informative)

            by fgouget (925644) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @06:56AM (#39533315)

            In Brazil, every single party or entity (like universities, etc) has access to the full source code for the elecion systems, terminals and servers. The code is digitally signed by all those parties and any of them can ask for an independent audit.

            All they have access to is the code that purportedly is being run on the voting computers. But on election day they have no way to verify that the code that runs is the one they looked at and signed.

            With so many eyes looking at the whole process,

            What you see as 'so many eyes' I see as so few eyes. In a paper election anyone can verify the process and a significant fraction of the population actually does. In electronic voting very few people can verify anything. And in particular none of the parties or universities you mentionned above can do anything to verify that the election is fair.

            nowadays only conspiracy theorists think there's been any fraud.

            Most people don't claim there has been fraud. However what most researchers in the field and most computer scientists do say is that there is no way to know, that if fraud happens there won't be any proof anyway, and that electronic voting makes the voting process opaque.

            • Here in the US their would be an immediate uproar that it is unfair to minorities because they are underrepresented in IT and therefore their rights will be violated by the whites that can read the code base.

              21st century technology solution? We can't get past the arguments to implement photo ID requirements, a 19th century technology solution without being called racist.

            • by oztiks (921504)

              ITS BRAZIL PEOPLE, OF COURSE THERE IS FRAUD!

              I know cynical but my wife is Brazilian she was raised simply accepting her political system is completely corrupt. The ONLY reason why they have implemented electronic voting is to simplify the fraudulent process.

              Money makes things happen over there, or hide things, or kill people, or whatever. Politicians rip off the system on a daily basis and though end up in jail its so common place it doesn't even raise an eyebrow.

              And jail don't get me started there, crims g

          • That's nice, but why should Joe Random trust ANY of them? What this entails is that the voters have to trust "the computer experts". You have to trust a group of people because you cannot verify it yourself.

            The problem isn't, as I pointed out, that there will be actual fraud. It is actually, from my point of view, likely that such a system should make it impossible. But now try to explain this to Joe. First of all, try to convince him that a digital signature is as good as that paper seal on the ballot box.

        • by jpapon (1877296)
          Paper ballots can be "multiplied" too. They can also be "deleted", and ballot boxes can be stuffed. Paper is in no way a secure system. Being able to physically count it afterwards doesn't prevent fraud between voting day and recount day.
          • by fgouget (925644)

            Paper ballots can be "multiplied" too. They can also be "deleted", and ballot boxes can be stuffed. Paper is in no way a secure system. Being able to physically count it afterwards doesn't prevent fraud between voting day and recount day.

            Come back when you have devised a way to introduce enough ballots to swing an election (so at least a hundred) in a ballot box while it is being watched by the 5 or 6 people who are there to do just that, all the while without introducing a discrepency with the voter list. Anytime paper fraud is possible it's either obvious there has been fraud, or because the country has a stupid election process.

            • by Imrik (148191)

              Why without introducing a discrepancy in the voter list? Haven't you ever heard of dead people still getting to vote?

              • And you hopefully have some kind of ID that proves you're that dead person. No ID, no vote for you. You also may only vote (in my country) where you are registered, which has to be where you have your permanent residency, which makes fraud in rural areas where everyone knows everyone pretty much impossible. Everyone knows that ol' pop Smith died last week. Likely, everyone in the commission was at his funeral.

                I seriously doubt anyone goes through the trouble (and the penalty entailed) of forging an ID just

              • by fgouget (925644)

                Why without introducing a discrepancy in the voter list? Haven't you ever heard of dead people still getting to vote?

                Because even the dead sign the voter list. So now if you have 612 votes from dead and living people but you have 618 ballots in the ballot box, everyone will see that there's been fraud.

          • How?

            You have one person from every party present when the box gets sealed. Every box carries the seal of a notary which first of all cannot easily be reproduced and second reproducing it carries a jail sentence to it that borders on murder. During elections, a person from every party sits there to watch you put your vote in the box, with the box being in a very prominent and plain view position in the center of the room, with a policeman standing next to it watching warily what you put in there. Putting mor

            • by jpapon (1877296)
              You break in at night after the voting and initial count, and change the ballots. Then you ask for a recount.

              You can't honestly be telling me that forging a seal on a ballot box is more difficult than hacking into an open secure voting system which is behind an air gap and has been vetted for security by the community.

              • Funny as it may sound, yes, I have more faith in a paper seal than your air gapped machine. One I can review easily, with a simple inspection by eyesight. One I cannot. One is sealed by a person who loses a well paying, cushy job if he fucks up, one isn't. In one system, tampering with the seal carries a jail sentence that borders on insanity and discovery is practically certain, in the other one the sentence is a slap on the wrist and discovery is unlikely at best.

                Guess which one is which.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Amazingly enough, the researchers in this field are not completely obtuse.
          We're aware of this -- actually, it's one of the main foci of current research: how to achieve straightforward verifiability while maintaining a very high standard of privacy and easily detecting any serious cheating.
          There are various proposals, e.g. pret a voter, helios, civitas, scantegrity, punchscan, eperio, ...
          Do note that having said that, most researchers still don't think evoting is ready for governmental elections -- see the

          • Amazingly enough, the researchers in this field are not completely obtuse.

            Often they are, because they miss the most important feature of any voting system: any member of the electorate must be able to verify the procedure. That means that any voting mechanism that relies on complex mathematics is inherently flawed because it means that you're likely to have under 10% of the electorate able to understand it, let alone prove that it is correct. This means that you end up with a small percentage of the population who are, in effect, responsible for deciding the elections.

          • by Imrik (148191)

            Yes you need trust in a paper ballot system, but you get to choose who you're trusting. I generally trust the people around the ballot box to disagree on enough things that they won't let each other cheat.

            • Someone with mod points hand that guy some. He said in a single line pretty much what I wanted to express in a whole essay.

          • Yes, but it is easy for every part to send a representative there. Anyone can do it. And if people really care about their party, they won't mind sitting a day there to make sure that their party doesn't get swindled out of votes. So what's your problem?

            I never said democracy is cheap of easy. But it's worth the effort and expense!

      • Try reading the public documents on Florida's contribution to the 2000 presidential election. It states that some "missing" ballots were found, and when counted showed that they favored NOT Bush! So brother Jeb, how'd those missing ballots get lost in the first place; I'm not smiling.
  • Sounds like an excellent opportunity for the government to gather fingerprints of all its citizens "for their own good". After all, election fraud is bad...almost "It's for the children!" bad.

    Of course, a smarter government would find a way to require DNA samples, rather than simple fingerprints, "to prevent election fraud".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Brazilian government already collects fingerprints from every single citizen. Only now they're making it digitally and use to validate voter's identity during election.

      • by keeboo (724305)
        That's correct, and it's the "digital" and "unified database" thingies that scare me to death.

        So it seems bad? It's even worse within historic contextualization.

        The brazilian government has a disturbing, and increasingly stronger, tradition of imposed culture homogenization and control centralization.
        That, so I understand, has roots from an old fear of country desintegration. We have disgraceful examples from a not-so-distant past (1940s, 1950s) when european migrants (most living
    • Re:Sounds like (Score:4, Insightful)

      by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Friday March 30, 2012 @06:35PM (#39530285) Homepage Journal

      If the Brazilian Government was just a bit organized, it would already have the fingerprint of everybody. It already collects them, and several times. It is just one more collection.

      By the way, I just don't get the antagony some people have about the government cadastrating people. No, it doen't lead to retriction of freedom, and is not necessary for that.

      • by alexgieg (948359)

        By the way, I just don't get the antagony some people have about the government cadastrating people. No, it doen't lead to retriction of freedom, and is not necessary for that.

        This depends on culture. It doesn't really matter when there's no persecution of certain groups nor any prospect of there ever been one, but when something like this exists, or is a concrete possibility, it matters a lot. The typical example is Nazi Germany, whose persecution of Jews was perhaps hundreds of times more effective than it'd have been for the sole reason Germany had extensive, very precise information on who was a Jew and where, exactly, all of them lived.

        • The typical example is Nazi Germany, whose persecution of Jews was perhaps hundreds of times more effective than it'd have been for the sole reason Germany had extensive, very precise information on who was a Jew and where, exactly, all of them lived.

          Closer to home, at least for most slashdotters, was the WWII interment of americans of japanese descent [scientificamerican.com] - where the US Census Bureau handed over their names and addresses to the US Secret Service who then rounded them up.

          What's more, such misuse of census data is (and was even then) forbidden, except that congress passed the war-powers act removiing those protections. Which goes to show that it does not matter what someone promises to do (or not do) with your data, if they have it, sooner or later they are

          • We didn't send them to the gas chambers, but we were only marginally less cruel than the people we were fighting.

            Generally your point is sound. There were also a number of interesting war crimes committed by Allied forces and so on. This statement is going massively too far. As a few random examples: The Germans under the Nazi regime actually took mathematicians (members of the educated classes) and grew lice on them for experiments before starving them to death. They deliberately had babies born in the concentration camp and then denied them access to any milk to test malnutrition and starvation. The treatment o

      • I just don't get the antagony some people have about the government cadastrating people.

        Grow a pair.

        Umm, make that regrow.

    • Re:Sounds like (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TrekkieGod (627867) on Friday March 30, 2012 @06:36PM (#39530297) Homepage Journal

      Sounds like an excellent opportunity for the government to gather fingerprints of all its citizens "for their own good". After all, election fraud is bad...almost "It's for the children!" bad.

      Of course, a smarter government would find a way to require DNA samples, rather than simple fingerprints, "to prevent election fraud".

      It is an escalation, but Brazil already had fingerprints on all citizens. I remember my ID card, the one the article mentioned their replacing with the new biometric stuff, had my thumbprint. (Contents of the card [wikipedia.org])

      Now I'm older, and I grew up in the US and actually care about this kind of stuff as a result of the culture shift. That said, I can tell you that Brazilians tend to not give much thought to the government having that information. At least my mother and her family don't, and I'm under the impression they're representative of the general population in that regard.

      • by lehphyro (1465921)

        I can tell you that Brazilians tend to not give much thought to the government having that information.

        The general public in the world doesn't give much thought to anyone having that information.

        • For reference, see any social network site. If they'd want fingerprints, people would provide them freely. Twice as fast if they get promised some vanity item in their favorite browser game.

  • Even Diebold makes ATMs [diebold.com]. Our online banking systems are pretty damn secure. Not hacker proof of course, but pretty good.
    So then why is it so damn hard to make a *secure*, paper-trail-producing and recountable voting system?
    This is a fucking easy engineering problem, compared to the kinds of digital financial transaction systems we've already built. Why is it so hard to make a viable electronic voting system?
    • Re:GODDAMNIT (Score:5, Informative)

      by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay&gmail,com> on Friday March 30, 2012 @06:37PM (#39530303) Homepage Journal

      It is because of that anonimity requirement.

      Anonimity makes it impossible to make a secure (in the mathematical sense) election. The best we can do is to make the flaws hard to exploit, what is a completely diferent problem from securing an ATM.

      • thank you - I found it excruciatingly annoying that something as simple as counting a vote would be so tough to secure. However, anonymity does add a different layer of complexity.... to a point.

        Wouldn't some kind of heavily-salted MD5 hash of a combo of private info (mother's maden name + a secret pin + social security number) be enough to keep things secret?
        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          Sure it will keep things secret.. but its not secure.
        • > counting a vote would be so tough to secure

          true, it is way easier to secure the recount manager's loyalty
        • by tnk1 (899206)

          If there is any way to tie you to a vote, you lose anonymity. If you lose that, you can be threatened, cajoled or outright bought. If you have a nice hash, then all the bad guys need is someone with access to the register of hashes and they simply collect your receipt and compare it to the registered vote. In the US and Western Europe, that may not be all that easy, but it is still possible. In places with even more corruption, its downright easy. And you can easily have your bribe withheld until your

        • No, it would not be secret. All I need is to know the algorithm (which at the very least the company that made the machines knows, as well as every auditor), then simply type in your name, address and all the other tidbits the hash uses and then look for that hash to find out how you voted.

          What COULD work (but I honestly didn't give that too much thought yet) was if you got some random number printed on a paper slip and with this number which is by NO means tied to you in any way and also must not be record

      • by ketonesam (812005)
        The ThreeBallot voting system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThreeBallot), which is both anonymous and verifiable. The main problem seems to be that it is too complicated for the average voter.
        • It is anonymous if used correctly. The problem is that if you put people enforcing that each person gets out with just one paper, those people will be in a position to see the vote. If nobody is enforcing, people can get out with the three paper strips, and prove how they voted.

      • Re:GODDAMNIT (Score:4, Informative)

        by Leafheart (1120885) on Saturday March 31, 2012 @12:36AM (#39532273)

        We try to do what we can here to help with that. As the summary mentions, we had tons of problems during and after the military dictatorship in Brazil (payed by the US of course) in the 60s to 80s. On the early days of democracy, voting fraud was rampant, since it was the same basic politics of yore, now with a thin veil of democratic participation. Voting, before the fully e-vote system was rampant with fraud, and delays, Florida level of delays.

        We tried our best to make the e-vote machines and the election system as secure and transparent as possible, among what was done we have.

        • Voting registration is mandatory when you turn eighteen. When you do you receive a card and is assigned a voting station which is close to your home (if you move you can change). This allows every party to know, much ahead of time, how many votes are expected at each pooling station. To avoid extra votes.
        • There is no touch screen to deal with it. The voting is done on a numeric keyboard. You know prior hand, during the campaign the number for each candidate. So no fiddling with positioning to mark it for the other candidate.
        • The source code is open any political party has access to it. They recently ran a public audit\hacking of the system to search for flaws. They found one, which is getting fixed for the next election. And the bug was regarding anonymity( it was possible to de-scramble the vote order so i you have the order people voted you could know who voted for who. But you would have to breach in two fronts).
        • Before the election in a public ceremony the code is uploaded, checksumed, and the machines locked. So we know which code is in there.

        So yeah, not perfect, but it is so much better and safe than what we had on the paper ballot days, that noone wants to go back.

    • was that a rhetorical question?
      Easy electronic voting means no need for representatives holding power to make laws. Direct democracy becomes feasible.

      Yes I already know the objections: people have no expertise on all the stuff they are going to decide upon. That's not a problem, a party can still exist as a way to orient people, who can vote only for what they care for.

      The other objection is that the system would be schizophrenic. Well it is already. Only the decisions which are backed by powerful people ar

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      The real issue is why take a cheap and nasty shortcut with the most fundamental issue of any democracy the election. Why go electronic with an issue that is meant to be of the people, by the people and for the people. The hardest system to cheap on any scale is a manual system, where representatives from all parties are at the election stations, where the votes are manually counted at the election stations, and then the results sent through by multiple routes to the vote tally centre (each representative c

    • Why is it so hard to make a viable electronic voting system? Trust, with an ATM you are implicitly trusting the bank to be honest. Electronic voting cannot be made trustworthy since someone has to maintain the machines, networks and counting software, the potential security holes in paper voting are well understood by all sides and trust is not a requirement when all sides get to watch the polling booths and count the ballots together in front of each other and independent observers. So, if your going to add a paper trail to an electronic vote to give you the essential ability to audit a count, then why do we need or even want a computer network?

      Even if you could make a fair electronic voting system that did not require implicit trust, I don't think it's enough, a voting system must also be "seen to be fair". The judicial arm of government should be the umpire in any system, with the power to order recounts or a do-over, they should not have the power to decide the winner by devinig voter's intentions from mangled ballots.

    • by lordbyron (38382)

      We are starting to rollout ATMs that require fingerprint verification against your UID/Aadhaar number in India.

    • by Imrik (148191)

      Aside from the problems discussed elsewhere, there's no money in it. People with money are more interested in a system that's efficient and manipulable.

  • I think I just heard Rachel Maddow's head explode.

    • This is about Brazil, not Cuba. There isn't an inch of Marxism in our government system.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is about Brazil, not Cuba. There isn't an inch of Marxism in our government system.

        Pay no attention to the OP. American politics are so off the rails that the conservative political positions of less than a generation ago are routinely labeled Marxist by those same conservatives. Which basically waters down the meaning of the term so much that all countries on Earth could be labeled Marxist states to some degree or another, because they all have governments.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Brazil is not communist. Thanks to the CIA they 'removed' all their communists.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor#Brazil [wikipedia.org]
      A massive network of telex machines called CONDORTEL was used to trace and then "question" people of interest.
      The questions where in real time over many days. Think of it as an early chatroom with realtime translation as information was extracted.
      After information was extracted and referenced you joined ~ 60,000 in death.
  • Awesome, no more half wits that fraud their way into office. Screw you Bush.
  • by ClickOnThis (137803) on Friday March 30, 2012 @06:32PM (#39530263) Journal

    The article refers to digits as in those things at the ends of our hands, not numeric digits. So, the actual amount of data will be far bigger than 1.9 billion numeric digits. Nothing they can't handle, of course.

    • by dmbasso (1052166)

      I didn't read it referred to the amount of data anywhere... and you know the origin of 'digit' and why our natural base is decimal, right?

      • by Bucky24 (1943328)
        I dunno man, that seems pretty offensive to 9 fingered people... How about we come up with a more politically correct reason?
        • 9 fingers? That's crazy, who'd use a base-9 numerical system? Pffft!

          On a related note, I did invent a non-decimal system for my personal use. I came up with the idea shortly after I killed a swordsmith. I believe his name was Montoya.

    • Yes - but this does raise the possibility, at some point in the future, of voting with your middle finger.
  • Imagine this happening in the U.S

    Thanks for including that in there. Most of us were going to do that anyway, but now we won't have any of those "Hey Idiot, this is in Brazil, not America. The Constitution doesn't apply there" comments and the brain-dead road that goes down. Huzzah!

    My scathing critique:
    What about people without fingerprints?
    Are burn victims disenfranchised?
    Mobsters will just cut off people's fingers and use them to vote.
    Mythbusters proved that fingerprints are easy to fake.

    Bam.
    Busted.

    • What about people without fingerprints?

      There are already procedures for dealing with them, as the fingerprints are already collected (just not by a machine).

      Mobsters will just cut off people's fingers and use them to vote.

      That is hylarious. Yes, people will just show up in a line, holding handless fingers, and nobody will notice. They'll put that extra finger in a machine, in front of six random people, and none of them will see anything.

      Mythbusters proved that fingerprints are easy to fake.

      Yeah, now we hav

  • Who are you, Roland Piquipaille? Trolling for page hits? Slashdot readers don't need to be shepherded to draw conclusions. This is not 5th grade. Christ, Editors.... EDIT !

  • as soon as gene therapy perfects the Immigration Delay Disease this is gonna be awesomesauce
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A wise man once said: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

    Btw, I, as a brazilian, must say that the quote "Imagine this happening in the US" was VERY offensive to me.

    Oh, and english is not my native language, but come on, the topic is just wrong: "1.9 billion digits" does not make sense.

    • by TrekkieGod (627867) on Friday March 30, 2012 @08:54PM (#39531255) Homepage Journal

      A wise man once said: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

      The point of that saying is that governments should be easily overthrown (which is actually the entire point of having elected officials. When they start pulling crap like asking citizens to be fingerprinted, you overthrow the government by electing a brand new one. The newly elected officials would then fear introducing similar legislation and then no longer being re-elected. In practice, the people are far too apathetic for the system to work that well, but as Churchill put it, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.")

      Btw, I, as a brazilian, must say that the quote "Imagine this happening in the US" was VERY offensive to me.

      As a fellow Brazilian, I can tell you that Brazilians have an unfortunate tendency to be very easily offended for no reason at all. In fact, the fact that I pointed this out probably offended you.

      I grew up here in the US, South Carolina to be exact, and all the statement is accurate. You're just missing some cultural background on the American thought process. People here are, in general, very anti-government. All that was meant is that If the federal government suggested fingerprinting everyone here, there would be a huge backlash. In fact, not too long ago there was a federal law passed (the REAL ID Act [wikipedia.org] that would require state identification cards and driver's licenses to pass certain requirements to function as a federal ID card (we don't have a carteira de identidade as in Brazil, there is no federal ID card). The backlash was such that 25 states have passed some type of legislation vowing to not participate in the program. And they don't even require fingerprints, just full name, signature, date of birth, gender, a unique identification number (which was the cause for most of the backlash), address, and a photograph.

      There's a lot of things I don't agree with in American culture (like the general lack of interest and trust in science), but I do wish Brazilians would adopt some of the very, very healthy distrust of government.

      Oh, and english is not my native language, but come on, the topic is just wrong: "1.9 billion digits" does not make sense.

      It's digits as in "digitais". The population of Brazil is approximately190 million, assuming everyone has 10 fingers (or digits), you arrive at that number.

  • I am a poll worker, and my precinct uses electronic voting machines. The thing most people don't realize is that very, very few elections are close enough to trigger an automatic recount. In my state, the votes have to be within 1% of each other for a recount. Since the 1800s, for example, only 3 senatorial races in my state were close enough.

    If you want to optimize the accuracy of an election, you need to focus on the vast majority of races that aren't recounts. To spend all your time and effort building the perfect system for recounting is, as they say, to make the perfect the enemy of the good. People on slashdot, especially, trumpet the advantages of a paper ballot, because it can be recounted.

    Let me tell you the problems with paper. Paper is not a nice medium to use to count anything. It gets torn, smudged, creased, turned around upside down and backwards, lost, and sticks to other paper. Marking is difficult, even if done with a physical machine (hanging chads) or with a scanner (in the Illinois primary, the ballots wouldn't fit into the feeder unless they were trimmed 1/16th of an inch.) Don't even talk about markings done by hand.

    If you want to count something accurately, you use a computer to do it with. No one expects that if you have a spreadsheet sum 3,000 integers 10,000 times in row that you will wind up with a different answer. Do that with paper and people, and you WILL have a different answer -- lots of them.

    Computers are also easier to use than paper. They have an interactive interface. They can ask the voter to confirm their vote. They can change the size of the typeface on the fly.

    So, if you want the most accurate vote with the best experience, you want a computer, every time. Now, on to the hard problem: how do you tell if the computer is cheating? Well, you don't need paper to tell if a computer is broken; you just need a reliable QA test. Black-box testing is the heart of modern software quality control. We don't insist that our accounting programs print us a receipt for everything. Why do we trust accounting software, but not voting software?

    What's needed is to bring the same quality assurance controls to electronic voting machines that we do to accounting programs. Let people have their interactive GUIs, let the poor poll workers have a system that is proven to count accurately every time. This is what would optimize voting for the vast majority of races.

    • If the emissions leak from the voting machine then anyone can see who you voted for and this could result in people changing their votes. You also have to consider that it might be possible to hack these machines and change votes as well.

    • by bussdriver (620565) on Friday March 30, 2012 @09:40PM (#39531503)

      Well, I've been involved in a recount and I have a lot of computer experience plus some experience in security and forensics and I say PAPER is the only way forward. Yes, hand counts are dull and take a lot of labor; it is a small price to pay (especially compared to those who die defending democracy.)

      Your post is almost entirely distracting side issues without addressing the core problem.

      As Stalin said, "It's not the people who vote that count, it's the people who count the votes." You think merely by having the people who count the votes 1 step removed from directly counting the votes makes things safer? WRONG.

      It is not a machine counting the votes anymore than a gun kills a victim-- it is the person behind the machine that does it. Do not be so literal minded. The machine, like a firing squad, hides which person actually did it, they themselves may not even know.

      You put that accounting computer out on the internet and tell everybody it can not make mistakes and publish the IP address. Lets see how well it works in the real world (not to mention how much better secured your PC likely is over most voting machines I've seen or read about.)

    • I am a poll worker, and my precinct uses electronic voting machines. The thing most people don't realize is that very, very few elections are close enough to trigger an automatic recount. In my state, the votes have to be within 1% of each other for a recount. Since the 1800s, for example, only 3 senatorial races in my state were close enough.

      For this reason, it is not necessary for an election to be 100% accurate! It should be accurate enough to distribute power according to the will of the people, but it is equally important that those people can and will trust the outcome. Paper ballots and counts done by hand are prone to error, but only in extremely rare cases are the errors large enough to swing the result. Moreover, errors are generally random rather than biased, and they can be spotted and understood. That last point is important.

    • how do you tell if the computer is cheating? Well, you don't need paper to tell if a computer is broken; you just need a reliable QA test. Black-box testing is the heart of modern software quality control. We don't insist that our accounting programs print us a receipt for everything. Why do we trust accounting software, but not voting software?

      Black box testing assumes that the software is written by friendly people who make mistakes. It is not able to pick up attacks by hostile programmers. There are real world examples [kerneltrap.org] where attempts to put in this kind of back door, have been made and some have been remarkably successful [kerneltrap.org]. If you look at the Linux kernel example it was sufficiently well hidden that if they hadn't been spotted by other means they would at most have thought that it was an accidental bug.

      These backdoors tend to be triggered b

    • by Imrik (148191)

      We don't insist that our accounting programs print us a receipt for everything. Why do we trust accounting software, but not voting software?

      Because the people that write accounting software have a vested interest in it being accurate, while the people writing voting software (who may be the same people) have a vested interest in being able to control the outcome.

  • I mean, like, the answer is right there in the summary:

    now officials are trying to end fraud, which was rampant after the military dictatorship ended.

    So, ironically, it seems that Brazil had a better democracy under a dictatorship.

    Plus, any real South American country should have a military dictatorship anyway. There's just something missing without one.

    • I think it's a joke, but anyway... there were no direct elections under the dictatorship, hence no democracy.
  • Or anywhere else, for instance.
  • by acid06 (917409) on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:50PM (#39531895)

    1) Here in Brazil, mostly everyone trusts the e-voting systems.

    It's much much better than the paper ballots which used to end up in rampant fraud in smaller cities, since corruption is widespread. With the e-voting system, the only possible fraud is if the federal government wants to rig the elections (and does a *very* good job at it) neither the government or the opposing parties consider this an issue so, unless they're all colluding with each other (which would make the elections pointless anyway), I think it's reasonably safe. I actually worked for a year and a half in the IT dept. of the Elections Branch in my state and, with that knowledge, I trust the e-voting system.

    2) No one here really cares about providing personal data to third-parties. It's common to have to provide your RG (ID card number) and CPF number (something similar to SSN) at a store, when you're making a regular purchase such as shoes or a t-shirt. When designing any sort of IT system to store clients, etc, the CPF number is usually the natural primary key.

    Most people here think it's reasonable to collect fingerprints and no one cares when, for instance, the US consulate collects our fingerprints when we're getting our US Visa. Almost all our government documents (we have several: ID Card, CPF, "Voter's Card", Driver's License, Passport) have tons of personal data and fingerprints. This is a non-issue here.

    3) People here care about privacy only inside their homes. For instance, everyone (including me) thinks it's a good idea to install more CCTV cameras in some areas to stop crime. In some places, crime is a much more pressing issue than expectation of privacy in a public place. "Big Brother" reality shows are the top 1 programs on public TV, so I would say the next generation might even not care about privacy in their own homes.

    The rest of the world is very different from the US - just keep this in mind.

  • We enrolled almost 150M in a 18 months in UID/Aadhaar. 180M is just the testing phase for a MASSIVE program. By 2018 UID will have covered almost all of the 1.2 Billion Indians and we are capturing all 10 fingers, both irises and a high resolution photo of every India deduplicated and verified. Now that is Massive.

  • Good for Brazil. At least they are trying to advance the machinery of democracy. In this "great experiment" of ours in the United States the macroparasites have so co-opted the government that we can not hope to have even a serious discussion about electronic democracy. The extension of the theory of democracy cannot be explored. Where has it been mentioned? We have 310 million people and no one is theorizing about the evolution of democracy? It is supressed by the familiars of the macroparasite in the medi

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