IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 10th Sep 2020

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.– Warren Buffett

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Editorial Hunt is an initiative to dilute major Editorials of leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Here we choose two editorials on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC MAINS 2020.

EDITORIAL HUNT #130 :“What is Blockchain Voting ? 

What is Blockchain Voting ?

Karan Saini
What is Blockchain Voting ?

Karan Saini is an independent security researcher from New Delhi

      HEADLINES:

In blockchain voting, leave out the general election

      CENTRAL THEME:

The idea of further digitising India’s electoral infrastructure is problematic and could hinder free and fair polls

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : 3 : Elections : Blockchain Technology

      MAINS QUESTION:

Do you think Blockchain Technology in voting is the future of casting a vote in India. Comment -(GS 3)

      LEARNING: 

  • The concept of Blockchain
  • Pros and Cons of Blockchain voting
  • Way Forward

      INTRODUCTION: 

Election Commission, last month, held an online conference in collaboration with  IIT Madras on possibility of using blockchain technology for the purpose of enabling remote elections.

  • DIGITISATION PROCESS : The Election Commission of India has for a while now been toying with the idea of further digitising the electoral infrastructure of the country.
  • THE OFFSET : There are several concerns that must be considered at the offset with utmost caution.

      BODY: 

RISE IN NEW APPLICATIONS

A blockchain is a distributed ledger of information which is replicated across various nodes on a “peer-to-peer” network.

  • PURPOSE : The main purpose of blockchain is ensuring integrity and verifiability of data stored on the ledger.
  • SUPPORTING STRUCTURE : Blockchain ledgers have traditionally been used as supporting structures for cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
  • WIDE APPLICATIONS : Their use in non-cryptocurrency applications too has seen a steady rise.

EXAMPLES OF NON-CRYPTO APPLICATIONS

  • It allows individuals and companies to draft legally-binding “smart contracts”.

It enabling detailed monitoring of supply chain networks.

  • There are several projects focused on enabling remote voting and elections.

PROS OF BLOCKCHAIN VOTING

  • REMOTE VOTING : In the way the envisioned system has been described, ‘remote voting’ would appear to benefit internal migrants and seasonal workers.
  • ARMED FORCES : The envisioned solution might also be useful for some remotely-stationed members of the Indian armed forces.

KEY ISSUES, SECURITY CONCERNS

  • DEDICATED IP ADDRESS : Electors would still have to physically reach a designated venue in order to cast their vote, adding IP devices on dedicated internet lines.

BIOMETRIC ATTRIBUTES : The blockchain voting  would make use of the biometric attributes of electors.

  • CONNECTIVITY ISSUES : Digitisation and interconnectivity introduce additional points of failure external to the processes which exist in the present day.
  • DEBUGGING IS DIFFICULT : The systems used in such low-stakes elections have suffered several blunders too, some of which could have been catastrophic if they had gone undetected.
  • PROPER IMPLEMENTATION : This technology might stand to potentially unmask the identity and voting preferences of electors, or worse yet, allow an individual to cast a vote as someone else.

EXAMPLE
In recent Russian Elections it was possible to access and decrypt the votes stored on the blockchain due to a flaw in cryptographic implementation.

  • SECURITY : The requirement of physical presence and biometric authentication may not necessarily make a remote voting system invulnerable to attacks either.
  • PRONE TO HACKING : An attacker may be able to clone the biometric attributes required for authenticating as another individual and cast a vote on their behalf.
  • SOFTWARE BACKDOORS : Physical implants or software backdoors placed on an individual system could allow attackers to collect and deduce voting choices of individuals.
  • DENIAL-OF-SERVICE : Denial-of-Service attacks is where an attacker would be in a position to block traffic from the system, effectively creating a lag.
  • DATA PRIVACY : More attack will disclose additional details about the hypothesised system.

OTHER SOLUTIONS

  • PROXY VOTING : Political engagement could perhaps be improved by introducing and improving upon other methods, such as postal ballots or proxy voting.

ONE NATION ONE CARD : Another proposed solution to this issue includes the creation of a ‘One Nation, One Voter ID’ system.

      IASbhai Windup: 

AN OBSESSION

  • TECHNO-SOLUTIONISM : However, this optimism for technological solutions poses a threat and could stand to hinder free and fair elections in the future, if unchecked.
  • ROBUST PREPARATION : It is important to lay stress on the point that further digitisation, in itself, does not make processes more robust.
  • TRANSPARENCY CHECKS : Any solution to electoral problems must be software independent and fault tolerable, where failure or tampering of one mechanism — or several — would not affect the integrity or transparency of the overall process.

Use of such a system could perhaps only be justified for lower level elections, and not for something as significant and politically binding as the general election.

       SOURCES:   THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | What is Blockchain Voting ? 

 

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