October 18, 2017

Archives for May 2014

Increasing Civic Engagement Requires Understanding Why People Have Chosen Not to Participate

Last month, I was a poll watcher for the mayoral primary in Washington, DC. My duties were to monitor several polling places to confirm that each Precinct Captain was ensuring that the City’s election laws were being followed on site; in particular, that everyone who believed that they were qualified to vote was able to do so, even if through a provisional ballot. While, thankfully, I did not witness any violations of DC law, I also did not see many voters. The turnout for the election was the lowest since 1974, the beginning of home rule in the District of Columbia. Only 27% of registered voters cast ballots.

Between conversations with friends and neighbors and reading post-mortems on the election, anecdotal evidence abounds as to why turnout was so low. [Read more…]

Threshold signatures and Bitcoin wallet security: A menu of options

Before Bitcoin can mature as a currency, the security of wallets must be improved. Previously, I motivated the need for sharing Bitcoin wallets using threshold signatures as a means to greatly increase their resilience to theft. For corporate users, threshold signatures enable cryptographically secure access control. For individuals, threshold signatures can be used to build two-factor secure wallets.

Our work was predicated on the assumption that there exist threshold signature schemes that are compatible with Bitcoin. Indeed, there are various threshold signature schemes that meet this requirement. But it turns out that there are a number of desirable properties of such schemes, and each alternative satisfies some subset of them. In this technical post, I’ll examine the desirable properties and how each available solution fares. While no scheme is suited to all possible applications, it appears that almost every use case can be satisfied by one of the schemes I describe.

[Read more…]

Free Law Project Partnering in Stewardship of RECAP

More than five years ago, I spoke at CITP about the US Federal Courts electronic access system called PACER. I noted that despite centuries of precedent stating that the public should have access to the law as openly and freely as possible, the courts were charging unreasonable rates for access to the public record. As it happened, David Robinson, Harlan Yu, Bill Zeller, and Ed Felten had recently written their paper “Government Data and the Invisible Hand“, arguing that:

…the executive branch should focus on creating a simple, reliable and publicly accessible infrastructure that exposes the underlying data. Private actors, either nonprofit or commercial, are better suited to deliver government information to citizens and can constantly create and reshape the tools individuals use to find and leverage public data.

After my talk, Harlan Yu and Tim Lee approached me with an idea to make millions of court records available for free: a simple browser extension that made it easy for individuals to share the records that they had purchased from PACER with others who were looking for the same records. The idea became RECAP (“turning PACER around”), and the tool has indeed helped to liberate millions of public records in the years since then. But the time has come to turn over our stewardship, and we could not be more pleased that CITP is announcing a new partnership with Free Law Project to take over and expand upon RECAP.
[Read more…]