[E-voting] Appeals to the Information Commisioner - progress andobstacles

Aengus Lawlor aengusl at eircom.net
Mon Oct 30 02:32:28 GMT 2006

On Sunday, October 29, 2006 8:35 PM [EDT],
Colm MacCarthaigh <colm at stdlib.net> wrote:

> Only in the irrational scenario where the administrators then ignore
> all sensible advice given to them does a real risk arise,

It might be irrational to you, but ignoring all sensible advice is not 
exactly unheard of in Ireland.

> Furthermore, it can also be argued that it is not reasonable to expect
> these machines to actually ever be used, so the concern is without
> merit. The Commission on Electronic Voting have already made
> recommendations which involve modifying the hardware, including
> attempting to defend against the threats demonstrated by the Dutch
> group. The government have committed to the recommendations of the
> CEV, and so again, it is not a reasonable expectation.

The Governments interpretation of those recommendations apparently only 
involves the spending of half a million to replace the counting software. 
And given the non-specific nature of the actual recommendations (they could 
have been written BEFORE the CEV started their investigations, they're so 
generalised), the Government will claim that they have fulfilled the 
recommendations by the time the next European/Local elections come around. 
(And it's not as if anyone can stop them, if they decide to go ahead).

>> Apart from the prospective application of section 23, it also seems
>> to me that the above records contain technical information the
>> release of which could prejudice the competitive position of the
>> producers of the Nedap voting machines. You may argue that the
>> recent hacking of the voting machines in Holland means that the
>> competitive position of Nedap cannot be further prejudiced through
>> the release of the above records. However, it seems to me that the
>> release of the records would involve the disclosure of information
>> not already in the public domain, which could indeed further
>> prejudice Nedap's competitive position. Accordingly, I would accept
>> that section 27(l)(b) applies.
> Is this the Information Commissioner saying; "These clowns are
> actually more incompetent than you already think they are?"

Indeed. If the decision is supposed to be made "de novo", then the 
commercial protection of Nedap, in the light of what happened last month, 
seems to be a particularly weak argument. (It could even be argued that the 
suggestion that the company is being protected from commercial damage is 
itself commercially damaging - the market can be funny that way).

>> However, it seems to me that there is a further public interest
>> argument to be considered -that of preventing the disclosure of
>> information that could facilitate the commission of an offence,
>> which in my view, is a very strong public interest in support of the
>> information being protected.
> That is the stupidest argument I have ever read from Emily O'Reilly.

In fairness, the letter is signed by an Investigator from the Commissioners 
office, not by Emily O'Reilly herself.


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