EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

06.06.15

How Microsoft Squashed Free/Open Source Software in Voting Systems in the United States

Posted in America, Free/Libre Software, Windows at 6:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Insecure-by-design systems a misfit in any democracy

Voter

Summary: Microsoft is interfering with efforts to put Free/Open Source software in voting machines, ensuring that these machines continue to have back doors (Windows)

THE presence of Microsoft lobbyists is global/universal. We recently wrote about how Microsoft had successfully squashed Free/Open Source software-leaning rules in India, just like in Chile last year. Microsoft lobbying was done also by proxy and in the UK we found out that Microsoft was blackmailing British politicians, as recently as weeks ago. Microsoft is just a bully like that. Given its influence in the United States government, we expect much of the same in the US, if not more and worse.

“Microsoft lobbying in this area is a scarcely explored topic.”Microsoft wages war on politics in all sorts of ways, sometimes through lobbyists, sometimes through ‘former’ staff, pseudo ‘charities’ like the Gates Foundation, and pressure groups like the Business Software Alliance.

Today we present information given to us courtesy of the California Association of Voting Officials. They complain about Microsoft lobbyists and they have expressed an interest in aligning for global issues, for they too realise that Microsoft cannot be ignored if society wants fair elections and ultimately pursues voting machinery that can be trusted.

Microsoft lobbying in this area is a scarcely explored topic. There is very little information about it out there, hence we hardly ever covered the topic. It is widely known, however, that voting machines in the US use Windows, which has back doors and therefore can never be trusted, with or without tampering by a human operator. Putting Windows in voting machines gives plenty of leeway for mischief, especially by those with simpler access to the back doors. Consider, for instance, how Korean spies (the KCIA) famously meddled in South Korea’s elections.

At the early stages of research for the article we were trying to see or at least understand the relation Microsoft lobbyists have to voting machines. We have hardly heard of that before. There is a lot to it other than today’s proposed solutions being “open source”, which is probably where Microsoft lobbyists come in. Somehow, despite public will to induce transparency, accountability, audits etc. on the process, decades later we are still so heavily dependent on a proprietary, secretive system (or set thereof). Politics being determined by such a system (secret formula) won’t inspire public confidence. It breeds abuse and corruption and leads to reminiscing of the events in Florida 15 years ago (when George Bush got ‘elected’).

“We put open source language into voting system legislation,” told us someone from the California Association of Voting Officials, “and the Microsoft lobbyists have it removed.

“This must be stopped as OS voting systems are a preferred security environment for vote tabulation… the alternative being Diebold/ Dominion / Microsoft etc.”

We asked for additional information so that we can present it in an article, specifying what they have done and who has done it. Here is what we got:

The head attorneys for President Obama’s election report ( which omitted open source voting system solutions even though the information was gifted to them ) work for firms that lobby and / or represent Microsoft / Bob Bauer of Perkins Coie and Ben Ginsburg of Pattons Boggs /Jones Day

http://electionlawblog.org/?p=50792

Nate Persily was tasked with presenting the President with all information.. but inexplicably failed to include any reference to open source in the report. When asked about this omission – and possible steps to remedy ( addendum etc ) Persily went silent.

No members of the Presidential Committee were responsive..

In California — which is the frontline of the battle for open source voting systems in the USA — the lobbyist for the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials
Barry Brokaw- http://sacramentoadvocates.com/brokaw.html is also the lobbyist for Microsoft . –This may explain why the CACEO has been blocking efforts toward publicly owned General Public License voting system in California

US congressman Rush Holt’s bill 811 https://votingmatters.wordpress.com/from-rep-rush-holts-website-about-hr-811/ had open source included .. but it was mysteriously taken out – apparently at the direction of MS lobbyists and Verified Voting . Verified Voting is headed by David Dill – a Stanford Professor with Silicon Valley / Microsoft ties .. Verified Voting also employs Sarah Grootius Vilms from Patton Boggs as a lobbyist

A few days ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she was filing a lawsuit in Ohio to challenge their voting laws .. but her legal team is again led by attorneys from Perkins Coie — and there was no mention of tabulation or software. We have again contacted them to request their attention to that part of proper election reform

Also a bit more of the story– There is a group called OSET ( Open Source Election Technology ) that is attempting to sell bogus software that is NOT open source as it purports to be.. per the Open Source Initiative standards,, They call it ‘ open Public license “– It is ” open -washing ” and very dangerous — They are trying to sell it to US jurisdictions

Mitch Kapor is the owner of OSET — He previously owned Lotus – KC Brandscomb was Mitch Kapor’s CEO at Lotus — and is married to IDEO’s Kelly IDEO recently received a 15 million dollar sole source contract from Los Angeles County , CA for a design that Alan Dechert and Open Voting Consortium gifted L.A. for free years back ( a ballot printing system.)

KC’s brother Harvie is now heading up efforts toward election reform in Colorado– Colorado is going toward a uniform system . and Harvie would appreciate OSET ” kinda sorta ” OS being used.. especially since Colorado is being heralded as the model by CA

http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1996/06/10/213266/index.htm

This is “all public info,” explained our source, but “attribution should be given to the California Association of Voting Officials — not for the information provided — but rather for our efforts toward open source voting solutions.”

We have meanwhile noticed new efforts to exclude Free/Open Source “In Many Situations” [1], based on Wikileaks’ disclosure of the TISA Agreement (in current form). Forbes has just explained that it is “clearly something that the many lobbyists from the likes of Microsoft will have wanted to see included.” [2]

“Legislative capture via government mandates would be great,” explained our source, “but that is the holy grail and not presently considered achievable in the USA, so this is no shock. Secret agreements are certainly bad though.”

If any of our readers are aware of Microsoft intervention in Free/Open Source voting legislation in any other country, please let us know. It is almost definitely done elsewhere, but finding evidence of it is the hard part. Mirosoft itself has been rigging votes, not just voting systems.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. TISA Agreement Might Outlaw Governments From Mandating Open Source Software In Many Situations

    Now, this is nowhere near complete — it is “bracketed text” which is still being negotiated, and Colombia already opposes the text. Also, some may argue that the second bullet point, which says it only applies to “mass market” software and not “critical infrastructure” software solves some of these issues. Finally, some might argue that this is reasonable if looked at from the standpoint of a commercial provider of proprietary software, who doesn’t want to have to cough up its source code to a government just to win a grant.

    But, if that language stays, it seems likely that any government that ratifies the agreement could not then do something like mandate governments use open source office products. And that should be a choice those governments can make, if they feel that open source software is worth promoting and provides better security, reliability and/or cost effectiveness when compared to proprietary software. That seems tremendously problematic, unless you’re Microsoft.

  2. Leaked Draft Trade Agreement Could Threaten Open Source Deployment

    But another section also caught my eye, and indeed it seems that it could make things very difficult for governments that are prioritizing open source.

    The offending paragraph, proposed by Japan, reads: “No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory.”

    This is clarified with: “For purposes of this Article, software subject to paragraph 1 is limited to mass-market software, and does not include software used for critical infrastructure.”

    This certainly makes some sort of sense. It means countries can’t require companies based abroad to hand over their source code, and is clearly something that the many lobbyists from the likes of Microsoft will have wanted to see included.

EPO and Administrative Council Stall Criticism by Pretending to Negotiate With Staff Whilst Actually Attacking It

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The goal of censoring critics

Benoit Battistelli

Summary: Benoît Battistelli and his ilk are not actually interested in making changes, only in silencing their critics

AT THE increasingly disgraced EPO, not much publicly happened in the month of May (and much of the prior month) because staff representatives tried a more diplomatic approach, assuming (quite wrongly) that EPO management would accept and formally recognise staff participation in decision making, workers’ rights, etc. Things may be just about to explode again because the staff aren’t having/tolerating any of the management’s pretenses of concessions, especially not when the management preys on staff and European media. The EPO seems to have opted for delaying tactics (giving the impression of negotiation) while nasty, shady, and privatised (state-connected) spies stab staff in the back.

Many IP addresses are being blocked this week due to DDOS attacks on Techrights; we have reasons for assuming it’s related to EPO coverage (we have a lot more coming about EPO management), for reasons we explained before [1, 2, 3, 4].

According to SUEPO’s site: “The last tri-partite meeting (Administrative Council/Office/Unions) on Union recognition took place on 28 May. Neither the Office nor the Administrative Council (AC) have given any indication that they intend to involve SUEPO in any form of serious collective bargaining.

“The EPO also refuses to stop investigations against staff and union representatives launched during the talks on unions recognition.”

Here is the statement issued in PDF form:

Unions Recognition Talks

going nowhere as slowly as possible

The last tri-partite meeting (Administrative Council + Office + Unions) on Union recognition took place on 28 May.

As was foreseeable from the talks during the two preparatory meetings between the Unions and the Administration (Office), the EPO refuses:

- to stop investigations against staff and union representatives launched during the talks on unions recognition;
- to accept basic principles for (mandatory) dispute resolution in case of disagreement between management and unions, or non-compliance with agreements signed;
- to provide unions with the minimal resources needed;
- to revisit urgently recently introduced reforms (Careers & Performance management, Sick leave & invalidity);
- to apply best practices (in spite of statements to the contrary by Mr Kongstad in the kick-off meeting);

Meanwhile, neither the Office nor the Administrative Council (AC) have given any indication that they intend to involve SUEPO in any form of serious collective bargaining.

Neither Mr Battistelli nor Mr Kongstad (Council Chairman) is serious about recognizing Unions as social partners. Sweet talk and communication spins cannot hide the truth, which is: their alleged overture towards unions is nothing but a disingenuous fig leaf to buy time and favour with the AC delegations.

In these circumstances, time has come to reassert unambiguously the claims granted by the Dutch Court of Appeal in its ruling of 17 February 2015, and fight for proper means of enforcement which, if proven unavailable, will place all the member states under liability for violation of fundamental rights.

SUEPO Central

Why is the EPO’s management being given the benefit of the doubt, especially given its appalling track record? This management is not only disliked by staff (many of whom go on strike), but also patent practitioners, such as patent lawyers. As IP Kat put it yesterday: “European Inventor Award survey… Award is not viewed as a particularly useful or attractive event by a large proportion of people who spend their time and practise their skills in the social media’s IP space.” (context here)

IP Kat also wrote about patent reform in Europe, noting: “Following an update by Margot Fröhlinger (Principal Director, EPO) on the unitary patent and unified patent court, the EPLIT meeting turned to issues concerning the draft Rules on the European Patent Litigation Certificate, the unclear and potentially unfair rules on “grandfathering” of practitioners without litigation certificates in the representation of clients before the new courts, the assessment of court fees based on the estimated value of the litigation [to this Kat, such an assessment sounds like a perfect recipe for a headache], the recoverability of costs and the training of technically qualified judges.”

Nowadays, the media, politicians, many of the patent practitioners, patent examiners and obviously scientists are all upset at the EPO. Why would anyone still give Benoît Battistelli and his ilk another chance? It is a waste of time and it gives these thugs an opportunity to silently attack the opposition while everything looks calm. There is a very rogue element at the top and it needs to be eliminated; compromises don’t lead anywhere because Battistelli isn’t man of compromise (he threatened to resign over this very idea).

EPO Officially Confirms That It Specifically Hired Control Risks Group (CRG) to Spy on Journalists and Their Sources

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) article
Previous article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, regarding Benoît Battistelli and EPO suicides

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) acknowledges when asked by the German media that it has hired a military-connected privatised spying giant

WE NOW know that it was John Martin’s department which made the decision to relay taxpayers’ money to notorious London-based spies (attacking journalism). British embezzlement? This funneling of funds should prove controversial at the very least. The EPO is now bullying critics, including the media.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote about the EPO before. It again mentioned the latest scandal the other day. Now we have the collection of translations [PDF]. Here it is in English:

Crisis management experts are snooping around the EPO

The European Patent Office has hired the private “global risk consultants” Control Risks to deal with allegations of mobbing. At the same time, it is the process of conducting talks with staff unions aimed at restoring “social peace”.

Munich, 1st June 2015. For a number of weeks now, opposing parties at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich have attempted to engage in a “social dialogue”.

On the one hand, there is the EPO President Benoît Battistelli, a Frenchman who is said to be characterised by an autocratic leadership style; on the other hand, there are the staff union officials who hope to finally achieve recognition within the European organization which has 38 member states and enjoys immunity due to its supranational character.

In April, Battistelli and the Administrative Council of the EPO met with staff members represented by the Staff Union (IGEPA/SUEPO). After initially breaking the ice, they agreed to continue talks in order to arrive at a consensus (as reported in the FAZ on 25 April).

But storm clouds appear to be gathering on the horizon again. Shortly after this historical meeting which ended on such a hopeful note, some strangers called at the Patent Office beside the Isar and started to take a closer look. These were representatives of a British company called Control Risks Group (CRG). Control Risks is a privately held company which describes itself as “a global risk consultancy”. It offers advice on economic risks and assists companies, organisations and governments with the analysis of political risks and security solutions and supports managements in the elimination of operational risks. CRG is supposed to help the Internal Audit department of the EPO with the investigation of allegations of mobbing.

The services of these British experts are also very much in demand in situations such as those encountered in Third World countries which involve dealing with problems that cannot be easily resolved using conventional means. Control Risks has even made a name for itself in Germany. It is said to be the company that allegedly spied on journalists on behalf of Deutsche Telekom in order to identify contact persons inside the company who were involved in leaking information to external parties.

“The selection of CRG by the competent department was made in the course of a procurement procedure,” said a spokesman for the EPO. The competent department was the Internal Audit and Oversight department of the EPO whose Director is Mr. John Martin.

It was confirmed that only this department and not the President was involved in the decision. As part of the reforms introduced by Battistelli who assumed office in 2010, an internal investigation unit which operates in a substantially independent manner to protect its staff was established [as part of the Internal Audit and Oversight department].

In 2014, the Internal Audit department dealt with 68 complaints, for example cases involving mobbing, bullying, employment law violations or other misconduct by staff out of a workforce of 4,300 employees.

Although the number of complaints declined by 23 percent compared to 2013, Mr. Martin justified the move [to hire external investigators] as follows: “Because the EPO Investigative Unit is rather small in terms of staffing, we need to be able to contract external companies to support our fact-finding enquiries.”

However, the fact that it was Control Risks which was selected has – to put it mildlycaused “indigestion” in some quarters inside the EPO. It is referred to as an “unfortunate choice”. And the targeting of staff representatives as the subject of investigations into mobbing allegations is hardly considered to be conducive to a good atmosphere for talks between the President and staff unions.

According to what can be heard from staff, the overall effect of these developments is undermine the efforts to establish a social dialogue. On the other hand, the EPO tries to emphasise that, strictly speaking, the investigations into staff complaints are not connected with the current process of dialogue. And it was keen to point out that the second round of talks with Battistelli, the Chairman of the Administrative Council, Jesper Kongstad and staff unions SUEPO (Munich) and FFPE-EPO (representing the branch at The Hague) had not suffered any unsustainable damage last Thursday. The topic of surveillance did indeed come up on the agenda according to reports but the sense of outrage remained within bounds unlike the demonstrations in recent years against the President’s reform plans which by EPO standards were perceived as radical.

The goal remains to lay the foundations by September for an agreement according to which the trade unions will not only be formally recognized as representatives of staff at the EPO. They also want to be involved in the reform processes such as those relating to a performance-based reporting system for employees and the oversight of sick leave and other absences which are conspicuously high at the EPO. As these reform measures have already been introduced, the staff representatives doubt whether Battistelli is really serious about achieving a social consensus. Against this background, the timetable which has been set seems ambitious – and the decision to hire experienced “crisis management assistance” counterproductive.

We have a lot more coming about Control Risks, including their role in spying on Techrights.

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts