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Now that we're past Election Day, a certain sort of "silly season" has begun.
I'm talking about folks coming up with big ideas on how to fix our outdated voting system.
And one of the big ideas out there is using blockchain for voting.
Let's stop that conversation – now.
The other day, the Twitter cryptoverse blew up after Alex Tapscott, co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, had his op-ed on the matter published in The New York Times.
In it, Tapscott presents his case for using a blockchain to carry out online voting. He apparently believes such a process would be much more decentralized and safe from hacking. The only downside, he claims, is a potential delay in the voting process.
Let me just tell you straight up: This is a terribly ill-considered idea, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, votes have to remain secret and anonymous. If not, that can lead to coercion in voting, as Princeton University cryptography professor Matthew Blaze has pointed out on Twitter.
Problem is, blockchains are typically designed to be public.
"If I can verify that my vote was correctly recorded, then your local mob boss can also use my receipt to verify the same thing," Blaze wrote.
Then there's the malware issue…
In a September report on blockchain voting, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said the strategy does little to solve the fundamental security issues of elections, but instead adds more security vulnerabilities.
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"In particular, if malware on a voter's device alters a vote before it ever reaches a blockchain, the immutability of the blockchain fails to provide the desired integrity, and the voter may never know of the alteration," the report's authors concluded.
Even Vitalik Buterin, one of the key founders of Ethereum (ETH), poo-pooed the idea, at least for something as important as a national election.
"There are limited e-voting usecases that make sense, but *really important* to stress, on-chain votes should NOT be used to choose national governments," he tweeted. Later clarifying his position further, he wrote, "Online voting requires some very specific privacy and security properties and specific techniques to achieve them, and just shoving stuff onto a public ledger can often even be actively counterproductive."
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, and have been for years.
The technology is, in a word, impressive.
About the Author
Michael A. Robinson is a 36-year Silicon Valley veteran and one of the top tech and biotech financial analysts working today. That's because, as a consultant, senior adviser, and board member for Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Michael enjoys privileged access to pioneering CEOs, scientists, and high-profile players. And he brings this entire world of Silicon Valley "insiders" right to you...
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This all means the entire world is constantly seeking Michael's insight.
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