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On the 25th October 2002 The FREE e-democracy Project (who supported and organised GNU.FREE's development) formally stopped production and support of the GNU.FREE Internet voting system.
From my experience of designing and developing GNU.FREE over the past three years it has become clear that creating an Internet Voting system sufficiently secure, reliable and anonymous is extremely difficult, if not impossible. As Bruce Schneier points out "a secure Internet voting system is theoretically possible, but it would be the first secure networked application ever created in the history of computers."
I've spent much of my limited time and energy trying to persuade people (and the UK government in particular) that a Free Software voting system is the only realistic way a trustworthy voting system could be created. But they are culturally set in their ways and always need to deal with companies, no matter how fragile their security actually is. Governments don't even have the skills to assess the reliability of the people let alone the technologies these companies sell.
However the more I have coded, researched, discussed and read the more I've realised that rather than encourage, in a way, the use of electronic voting techniques (even if I only advocate the use of Free Software) I'm much better off focussing on the dangers all such technologies present to processes such as voting. The US have a bold voice on this issue in Rebecca Mercuri. The UK has no voice on these issues and certainly the world as a whole needs more educated (if I may say so) voices on the use of technology in democratic processes.
Thus I have halted development of GNU.FREE but it remains online and I still support the concept of Free Software in e-government. If organisations want to use GNU.FREE I'm happy to advise on the issues but I'll be focussing elsewhere because, as Mr.Schneier points out, "building a secure Internet-based voting system is a very hard problem, harder than all the other computer security problems we've attempted and failed at. I believe that the risks to democacy are too great to attempt it." And this guy eats crypto for breakfast.
If you want to discuss these issues or would like me to attend a seminar or talk then please get in touch by emailing email@example.com. I will be publishing some articles on the issues I raise in the near future.
These sentiments were expanded in several articles for LinuxUser magazine including "Furthur down the road... why voting shouldn't be electronic.".
On hearing about the project's decision Richard Stallman wrote: "I support your decision to stop, and I think that your history in the project should give you a powerful platform for opposing the use of risky online voting."
The software and its source remains available with its copyright still held by the Free Software Foundation. It can be downloaded from the links below and anyone is free to use the code or pick up the project as long as they conform to the terms of the GNU General Public License.
You might want to use the software in union, association or student elections. You are free to do so. However we'd advocate very strongly against the use of software in voting procedures, there are huge problems with auditing, authenticating and verifying electronic votes which have implications for trust, legitimacy and privacy. Please don't accept the cajoling words from technologists with vested interests, especially those gleaming with the delight of their own creations. Software is very complicated and nobody truly understands how any large piece of software interacts with itself and other software. Pen and paper work, they are auditable and easy for voters to understand. Please, please, please focus your energies elsewhere than technologising the voting process. There are so many other places where technology really could help. This isn't one of them.
We've left the links and information below for those wanting to use the software - we don't want to sabotage it. For the latest findings, articles and appearances please check the free-project.org site.
GNU.FREE (Free Referenda & Elections Electronically) is a suite of Java-based software programmes for providing heavy duty election services via the Internet. Offering massive scalability, strong security & privacy as well as proper logging.
The primary download is always from http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/free/ [GNU mirrors].
A complete copy of the documentation is included with every download. Furthermore it can be accessed in HTML format from free-project.org. This includes full JavaDoc documentation for code contributors benefit.
GNU.FREE is an official GNU package produced by the FREE e-democracy project. It is endorsed as one of two official electronic voting projects of FreeDevelopers.net.
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Copyright (C) 2001 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111, USA
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Updated: 29 Mar 2001 jkitcat