Link for Today's One Vote Conference Time: 3pm IST https://zoom.us/j/95859673251?pwd=cEtoSHJXWkVHc0k4MEh3Ni85M3dhdz09 more
In recent years, electoral processes, results and integrity of the results have been the focus of heated discussions. Alongside this, there have been continuous collaborative efforts to determine the security of the technology along with impact on rights, privacy and data governance. The various reports around the prototyping of blockchain based technology to be used for elections in India provide a perfect opportunity to examine the topic and acquire sufficient insights.
Many countries are exploring and experimenting a set of different approaches to enable more streamlined voting that is secure, efficient and auditable. As part of the conference, we will discuss some of the following topics:
- Challenges in transitioning traditional and established voting processes to more digital and auditable models.
- Examining the approaches and experiments underway (in other countries) to better understand technical, social and rights centric challenges.
- How to examine and evaluate the various technology choices being made specific to electoral processes.
- A framework with which to examine technology choices and policy decisions.
- Knowledge about the key challenges being addressed by various countries, researchers and governing bodies as they seek to make the transition to digital technologies.
A topic of this nature is designed to appeal to the widest cross section of the audience, including:
- Researchers and practitioners at the intersection of technology, rights and data.
- Cybersecurity and data security practitioners and experts.
- Policy designers who are engaged in developing the guidelines for the transition.
- Organization leaders who have elections on a smaller scale as part of the governance processes, and seek to examine new approaches.
- Journalists and columnists who write about current affairs and politics.
This list is indicative, and not exhaustive:
- Experts undertaking research and development on voting related technologies.
- Academic researchers examining the impact of technology interventions in electoral processes.
- Cybersecurity researchers and experts.
- Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay
- Dr. Syed Taha Ali, teacher at NUST; information security practitioner.
- Maansi Varma and Praavita of Article 21 Trust
Contact details: For information about speaking and participation, leave a comment on Comments Page. The organizing team will get back to you.
The Introduction of Facial Recognition for Electoral Roll Verification in Hyderabad - A talk by S. Q. Masood
The issue of deletion of names from the voters list is not new for. Before almost every election, it is found that the names of lakhs of voters are deleted by the Election Commission who then claim that this exercise was done as there were duplicate or multiple voters, and it is only these who have been removed.
But the problem is bigger, and more nuanced which the Election Commission has failed to address for years. Besides deletion of names from voters list, it is found that there are common errors which are yet to be addressed i.e.,entering incorrect names, age, address and missing or wrong photo which has been uploaded in the Election Commission’s EPIC database.
We have found that authorities delete names of voters randomly, and likely on account of pressure from higher officials who perhaps have to show that they have reduced the number of voters in a particular constituency or ward. This happens largely without following any due procedure or without set parameters in undertaking such exercise.
Rather, there is evidence that they identify duplicate or multiple voters in a particular area by doing a field enquiry by embarking on door to door check/verification of the voters list, so that the duplicate voters/names can be identified and deleted.
The problem here arises with the Election Commission failing to conduct a door to door verification to identify the duplicate voters, and instead whimsically using different technological solutions to weed out duplicate voters.
A ‘voter purification’ exercise was done in 2018 in Telangana as part of purification of voters list by linking Aadhaar with EPIC. DUring this process around 20 lakh names from the list of voters’ in the electoral roll were deleted.
People from across the state who had been voting at the same polling booths for years were shocked to see that their names had been omitted from the voters list, without any prior notice as they couldn’t find their names in the list when they went to cast their vote. Likewise, thousands of voters’ names were deleted on different occasions by the authorities without following due process of law.
After this huge disastrous system based de-duplication or purification process of removing names of voters, The Telangana State Election Commision and Telangana State Technological Services began to test and use facial recognition technology for voter verification in the local body election in Kompally in 2020. This is a larger problem.
While the rationale behind the move, according to authorities, and per news reports, was to reduce cases of impersonation, the larger issue that remains is what will be done with the photographs which have been taken. Where will they be stored and how will they be used? While the government maintains, per news reports, that the photographs will not be used for any other purpose save the ones as specified, a threat looms in the absence of any data protection law. What is more worrying is that the Data Protection Bill, in its current form, could do more harm than good, especially vis-a-vis the citizenry’s rights to privacy. The bill, as articulated by members of parliament overseeing the bill, have pointed out that several, blanket exemptions have been given to government and security agencies. This could deliver not just a body blow, but bring about a complete decimation of this very right.