RealTime IT News

Judge Needs Time For E-Voting Decision

A federal judge Monday said he needed more time before making a decision on a restraining order request made by an ISP against e-voting machine maker Diebold.

Getting approval for the restraining order filed by the Online Privacy Group (OPG), a non-profit Web hosting company and ISP out of San Francisco, is the legal first step to determine whether Diebold has the constitutional right to make an ISP shut down a customer's Web site because it contains information that highlights the vulnerabilities of its e-voting machines.

Officials originally thought a ruling would be made the first week of November, but the case was moved to the San Jose district.

The judge is expected to make a ruling sometime next week.

For the past two weeks the two sides have been readying for Monday's court date, to persuade Judge Jeremy Fogel to their side. While the judge saw the need for a hasty resolution to the debate, said Cindy Cohn, EFF legal director, he rightly felt the decision shouldn't be rushed.

"While we're obviously a bit impatient, you really want to make sure the judge writes a careful decision," she said.

The Web site in question was run by two students at Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College, who are also being served with cease-and-desist orders from the manufacturer. Both the students and OPG are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Stanford's Center for Internet and Society Cyberlaw Clinic.

It's a politically charged topic: Diebold says the Web site contains proprietary information about its intellectual property, subject to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is helping defend the ISP in court, said the only thing being published are the weaknesses of the machine used in the democratic process.

At question is the issue of fair use of intellectual property -- what can be used from a product without triggering the restrictions placed by the DMCA -- and how it affected a citizen's rights under the First Amendment. What the judge will need to decide upon is the limits of fair use and whether the students stepped beyond those limits.

"(The judge) said it was clear fair use was being used here and that a lot of the information ought to be made public," Cohn said. "His main concern was whether all of it should."

The Library of Congress recently published a report, "Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems: Analysis of Security Issues," that seems to indicate widespread vulnerabilities in today's e-voting machines.

And in the State of California, officials have halted certification on Diebold's line of machines in its state after hearing about the allegations surrounding the e-voting machines. They will be audited before Diebold certification can continue.