Technology & Innovation

Tech News Digest: Voting Machines and Democracy

TechSec’s Bi-Weekly Tech News Digest: October 28th, 2022

By Maya Schmidt

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the twelfth bi-weekly Tech News Digest, provided by the GISA Technology and Security Initiative. Our goal here is to give you an easy-to-read update on what has been happening lately in the world of technology and security. To do so, we pick the top news stories from the last two weeks and present a summary. If you want to know more, follow the links below the respective paragraphs.

What do the United States, Australia, and Brazil have in common? Conspiracy theories, of course!

Specifically, conspiracy theories about voting machines. Far-right influencers are pushing the narrative that Dominion and Smartmatic, two voting machine companies which have both been used in the United States, have caused the U.S. election to be “rigged” in favour of President Biden. The message has surfaced similarly in Brazil, with far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro making similar claims that candidate Trump did as Brazil heads into a runoff election on Oct. 30th. The message has been picked up by Whatsapp messages in Brazil and US-based social media sites, falsely claiming that the same machines are used in Brazil. Similar claims that Dominion devices would be used in Australia’s election circulated online. 

Read more about it on NPR.

Scientists Debate the (non-Peer-Reviewed) Possibility That SARS-COV-2 May Have Been Genetically Engineered

Scientists are very far from consensus, but there have been tentative comments that the virus has some features which are consistent with genetic engineering. The scientists suggesting this have published a preprinted paper without a formal review, and the scientific community focused on genetics and virology has been deeply divided. Sentiments are conservative, ranging from “Contrary to many of my colleagues, I couldn’t identify any fatal flaw in the reasoning and methodology. The distribution of BsaI/BsmBI restriction sites in sars-cov-2 is atypical” to “there are a whole range of technical reasons why this is complete nonsense.”

Read more about this possibility in The Economist.

A Deep Fakes Counter-Move

Many of us who have heard about Deep Fakes, or AI-generated photographs and movies, have been concerned about the implication of this technology for media transparency. Enter the Content Authenticity Initiative, led by Adobe, which features open-source tools, open standards for the signals of trust/distrust implicated, and a familiar user experience. The idea is that by partnering with camera companies Nikon and Leica, the Initiative will work to build features into these devices which make it easier to include information about where and when a photo was taken.

Read more on WIRED.

Apple Expands into India and Vietnam

The decisions that multinational companies make are inherently connected to geopolitics, the economy, and even local politics. Tim Cook entertained Vietnam’s prime minister Pham Minh Chinh in May and is expecting to open its first physical store in India next year. Average wages in China have doubled in the past ten years, Cook may be looking to improve profits with the move.

Read more on The Economist.

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