Monday, October 17, 2005

Crypto-gram, October 15, 2005

Bruce Schneier's latest Crypto-Gram Newsletter has been published. Extract:

"DUI Cases Thrown Out Due to Closed-Source Breathalyzer

According to the article: "Hundreds of cases involving breath-alcohol tests have been thrown out by Seminole County judges in the past five months because the test's manufacturer will not disclose how the machines work."

This is the right decision. Throughout history, the government has had to make the choice: prosecute, or keep your investigative methods secret. They couldn't have both. If they wanted to keep their methods secret, they had to give up on prosecution.

People have the right to confront their accuser. People have a right to examine the evidence against them, and to contest the validity of that evidence. As more and more evidence is collected by software, this means open-source equipment.

We are all safer because of this decision. (And its implications are huge. Think of voting systems, for one.)

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and from one of his recent essays:

"The effects of wholesale surveillance on privacy and civil liberties is profound; but unfortunately, the debate often gets mischaracterized as a question about how much privacy we need to give up in order to be secure. This is wrong. It's obvious that we are all safer when the police can use all techniques at their disposal. What we need are corresponding mechanisms to prevent abuse, and that don't place an unreasonable burden on the innocent."

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