June 17, 2020 — As the world adjusts to the long-running nature of the coronavirus pandemic, people in democracies are increasingly discussing relying on technology to assist in elections.
As many are calling for online voting options to be offered in upcoming elections, the importance of understanding the risks associated with digital voting grows.
In a webinar hosted by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems on Tuesday, panelists discussed the future of online voting, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of the relatively untested technology.
Before utilizing online voting software, it is necessary to be aware of all cybersecurity vulnerabilities associated with the technology, said Thomas Chanussot, cybersecurity expert at IFES.
Even if the digital voting software utilized is free of vulnerabilities, Chanussot explained, the device voters use to access the software may jeopardize their privacy.
The presence of malware on mobile devices is increasing, and mobile devices are the tool most commonly utilized by Americans in accessing the internet.
Malware existing on software or devices could act in a number of ways to increase distrust during election season, doing anything from altering citizens’ votes to jeopardizing their anonymity.
“If there is no digital national mechanism in place, which is the reality for most countries, it will be particularly difficult to establish a trustworthy online voting system,” said Chanussot.
“Successful elections require that public confidence exists,” said Carsten Schürmann, professor at University of Copenhagen. “Every country has different trust assumptions, which are important to consider when planning elections.”
While other countries may consider e-voting dangerous, Estonia views digital elections as the most trustworthy polling model. The country began building a digital identification infrastructure in 1995, and just ten years later became the first nation to hold digital elections.
Schürmann advocated for nations to create individual election solutions based on the needs and norms of their constituencies, as public support for digital elections differs around the globe.
While gaining the public’s support may be difficult, certain groups would significantly benefit from online voting.
“Disability activists have been advocating for online voting for years,” said Virginia Atkinson, senior global inclusion advisor at IFES.
Disability advocates filed for the ability to vote online in the upcoming election in three states, which have all since agreed to provide the resources necessary for individuals to vote online.
People that planned to skip in-person polling to avoid a resurgence of COVID-19 also stand to benefit from online voting options.
A major drawback of digital voting is that it assumes that all Americans have access to broadband internet and reliable devices. Those impacted by the digital divide must not be overlooked as the country transitions to utilizing more high-tech polling options.
In order to reach the largest amount of the population possible, Atkinson said that “the best solution is for the government to utilize a mixture of all available voting measures in the upcoming election — postal, digital and in-person polling.”
Lawmakers, FCC Take More Action Against Illegal Robocallers
There are new proposed rules that offer legal protections to those aiding in enforcement efforts against illegal robocalls.
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2022 – Regulators and legislators in Washington continued their efforts to curb unlawful telephony use with proposed rules designed to crack down robocalls.
On Wednesday, Rep. Bob Latta, R-Ohio, introduced the Robocall Trace Back Enhancement Act – an amendment to the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act.
If signed into law, the bill would provide legal immunity for a broad range of entities engaging in private efforts to track, surveil, and report on illegal robocalling scams.
The protected parties include registered consortiums that handle call receiving, sharing, and publishing and all voice service providers and any informants that share covered information.
It would also grant the Federal Communications Commission jurisdiction to take enforcement actions based on the information collected during the aforementioned activities.
FCC measures on cease-and-desist letters
In addition to this legislation, as part of her agenda to combat scam calls, on April 26 FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed closing a loophole to the STIR/SHAKEN regime afforded to small telcos.
Most telcos are required to adhere to cease-and-desist orders regarding illegal spam-calls and generally comply with actions taken by the FCC. The loophole in question gave smaller telcos greater latitude in how they chose to respond to FCC requests.
If adopted, the proposed regulation would require small telcos to abide by cease-and-desist orders, participate in robocall mitigation, cooperate with FCC enforcement, and take responsibility for facilitating illegal robocall traffic.
“International robocallers use these gateways to enter our phone networks and defraud American consumers,” Rosenworcel said in a statement, “We won’t allow them to bypass our laws and hide from enforcement.”
The new rule will be voted on at the FCC’s open meeting on May 19.
Federal Privacy Legislation Needed As State Legislation Could Harm Smaller Players, Event Hears
Different state privacy laws stifle competition and places burdens on small companies, experts say.
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2022 – While experts agreed that federal legislators need to take action on comprehensive privacy legislation, they disagreed on the specifics of how such regulation should be enforced.
Though some states have begun to establish their own frameworks for consumer privacy regulation, each framework puts forth different standards that online platforms would have to adhere to. These varied frameworks have raised concerns among many experts who consider a patchwork of legislation to raise the bar of compliance – a bar that could be lowered by federal legislation.
During an R Street panel on Monday, experts from the technology industry weighed in on the matter with their perspectives.
In March, Utah joined California, Colorado, and Virginia and became the fourth state to successfully pass consumer privacy legislation. Several additional states, including Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut have experienced mixed success with their bills and have not yet signed anything into law.
Lartease Tiffith, executive vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said that the US is an outlier among developed countries. “We are one of the few developed countries that [does not have a federal privacy law],” he said. “I think that in order to reflect the same common values as our colleagues who are in Europe and elsewhere around the world, we need [to make] one.”
Beyond the international perspective, Tiffith also emphasized domestic justifications for federal legislation. “I cannot think of a subject matter that is not more under the purview of Congress than interstate commerce,” he said. “The internet is everywhere – it is not limited by borders. So, we need to have one standard, one set of laws. It should not matter where you live – California, Utah, Virginia, Colorado – you should have the same basic privacy rights as anyone, anywhere.”
Various state legislation harder for smaller companies
Tiffith also explained that a patchwork of regulation would hit smaller businesses the hardest. “If you are a small or medium sized business and you are looking at investing more money into your products and service and delivering and reaching customers – you want to do that rather than spending time on hiring more lawyers to deal with ever complicating regulations.
“We need this for the next set of Amazons and Googles of the world to exists,” he said.
While the panelists were able to agree on the fact that current patchwork of laws is not sustainable, they did not agree on how to enforce a federal framework.
A federal body for consumer data protection
Sara Collins, senior policy counsel for internet advocacy group Public Knowledge, voiced benefits to creating a new data protection authority in the US – a body distinct from the Federal Trade Commission – that would focus expressly on matters related to consumer data protection.
Tiffith pushed back, however, arguing that the FTC already does a good job at handling these issues, and is only held back by what he views as under-resourcing. “If you compare the FTC to other protection authorities, they are very under-resourced,” he said. “So, I think instead of us standing up a whole new data protection authority, I think instead, let’s invest that money in the FTC, give them some rules, some limited rulemaking authority, and let’s give them a lot more staff and a lot more money.
“Let them be the cop on the beat,” he said.
FCC Announces Majority of States Now Signed Onto Robocall Investigation Partnership
The FCC signed on five states this month and seven last month.
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday it has partnered with further five more state attorneys general to combat illegal robocalls.
The agency said Thursday it had signed on Alaska, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Washington state to investigate the robocalls, which can lead to scams. Thursday’s news comes on the heels of a March 28 announcement, when the agency said it signed similar memorandum of understanding with Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Wyoming.
Altogether, the agency, which announced the federal-state partnership effort in February, said it has signed on the majority of the United States.
“It shows that we are united when it comes to fighting robocalls—urban, rural, north, south, east, and west,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “Today I invite every state and U.S. territory to join this effort and establish information sharing and cooperation structures with the FCC so we can work together to investigate and put an end to spoofing and robocall scam campaigns.”
The agency, which has made fighting illegal robocalls a key mandate, has previously credited states with catching those that allow robocalls.
Earlier this month, the FCC credited the North Carolina Department of Justice in an investigation that identified thinQ Technologies as a “facilitator” of robocalls. The agency, which is working with the Traceback Consortium to identify the culprits, has already sent more than a dozen cease and desist letters to those it has identified in investigations.
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