After a stressful election, experts warn that blockchain is not the answer


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Of Jasmin Boyce

Experts this week warned against the idea that the blockchain could adjust the voting system despite the growing frustration with long queues and malfunctioning machines that caused problems during the mid-term elections.

"If you're trying to convince Walmart he needs blockchains to track down avocados or whatever, be our guest," Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton, tweeted. "But if you have problems with the critical infrastructure, you've crossed a line."

Blockchain is the technology that allows users to create a shared, secure and decentralized digital ledger. Blockchain is better known as the basis for Bitcoin cryptocurrency, but in recent years has attracted the interest of a variety of industries that see an advantage in the use of the ideas behind the blockchain.

One of those areas is voting. In May, West Virginia introduced a new way for residents of the state living abroad to send their votes using Voatz, a mobile election platform that uses blockchain among other technologies. The state used technology in its primary election and nearly 140 West Virginia voted in half of the app with the Voatz app

The excitement of the ability to create easy and secure voting systems with blockchain technology was also supported by the New York Times, which published a piece on Monday of Alex Tapscott, the co-founder of Blockchain Research Institute. He suggested that blockchain technology could be used to solve the problems afflicting the "dated" voting process in the United States, going from person to digital voting.

The editorial was not well received by blockchain and voting experts.

"This is ridiculous." Angela Walch, associate professor at St. Mary & # 39; s University School of Law and blockchain researcher, " tweeted. "Please stop pumping the #blockchain technology for critically important use cases such as voting in public elections when all current voting experts do not agree. Deceiving policymakers and the public on this is irresponsible. "

Ben Adida, executive director of VotingWorks, a non-profit organization that is trying to modernize the vote, said that blockchain technology did not address the challenges of the voting process.

"While the notion of using a blockchain as an immutable urn may seem promising, blockchain technology does little to solve the fundamental security problems of the elections, and indeed, the blockchain introduce further security vulnerabilities," Adidas tweeted. .

The clamor of the Blockchain has grown in recent years, in particular because the prices of cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum, have increased significantly. A wide variety of companies have invested in the development of new blockchain technology systems, including Facebook and IBM.

But that clamor has led to growing skepticism that blockchain can be a panacea for any system that needs modernization without an adequate understanding of what blockchain technology does.

Matt Blaze, associate professor of computer science and information science at the University of Pennsylvania, tweeted that blockchain advocates would need to answer many questions before the technology was ready for use in national elections.

"The charlatans pushing for blockchain elections and online voting are doing the equivalent of supporting a health policy that assumes we are going to treat cancer," Blaze wrote on Twitter. "Maybe we'll do it, but it's better not to bet on it."

While the votes cast in West Virginia were an important step for the blockchain, the voting commission, part of the prestigious national academies of science, engineering and medicine, an independent advisory group, said in a recent report that blockchain technology, while intriguing, can not be seriously considered yet.

"While the notion of using a blockchain as an immutable urn may seem promising, blockchain technology does little to solve fundamental election security issues, and indeed blockchains introduce additional security vulnerabilities," he said. committee in its report.

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