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Open-source software for EVM UPSC NOTE

 Drawing a connection with Nobel prize

  • The 2022 Nobel Prize for physics was unusual because it was awarded not for a scientific discovery or technological innovation. 

  • Instead, it went to three physicists who proved that a peculiar natural phenomenon, called quantum entanglement, is real and that it isn’t the result of hitherto unknown physics, meaning whatever physics we already know should be able to explain it

SC verdict

  • The Supreme Court’s verdict on the petition brought by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Arun Kumar Agarwal against the processes by which the Election Commission (EC) ascertains the security of its electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the integrity of the voting process, could benefit from the nobel winning contribution

Open sources

  • The security of the EVMs depends on some unspecified “source code” and that knowing how something works could compromise its normal operation. 

  • Both these notions are inimical to democracy.

  • It’s not unreasonable to expect the software operating inside EVMs to meet the same standard. 

  • If it did, it would be independently verifiable and be able to benefit from the expertise of ethical testers to become more fail-proof, rather than rely on a secret that’s privy to the EC and whose modes of failure may remain unknown. 

  • There are well-established cryptographic techniques to allow outside verification without increasing an EVM’s vulnerability, such as tests that challenge the system’s schematics without forcing them to be revealed — the way a website’s server can verify if your password is correct without knowing what it is. 

  • It’s not for nothing that the software underlying electronic voting systems in Germany, the U.S., and Venezuela, among other countries, is open source

  • However, the EC hadn’t had the source code audited by a public authority as of 2023. 

  • The Technical Expert Committee had suggested in 1990 and 2006 that the EC reveal the source code. 

  • In 2013, it recommended a test of the software’s security without revealing its specifics. 

  • But the poll body has consistently refused to share the “source code” when members of civil society have approached courts asking for it. 

  • The trouble here is that courts have examined these claims from a constitutional perspective whereas the systems that execute the “code” are mathematical, and thus less protected by constitutional safeguards alone.

  • A software program being proprietary doesn’t make it more secure; in fact, it may be less so by virtue of fewer people being able to vet it. 

  • Fundamentally, software intended for public use in a democracy needs to be open source so it’s always reliable and doesn’t demand trust in a single vendor

  • It needs to be trustworthy — bearing a reputation that doesn’t constantly come under question — and trustless — not requiring someone to just take someone else’s word for it as to its integrity. 

  • Trustless software in particular eliminates the room not for trust but for distrust



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Open-source software for EVM UPSC NOTE
Open-source software for EVM UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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