Microsoft hopes that its technology will again help Americans trust the vote

Rather than the usual paper ballots, voters made their selections on digital tablets, loaded them onto plastic cards equipped with memory chips and inserted them into a card reader that saved the votes on a computer and printed a hard copy of each card to be placed in an urn.

The elections in Fulton were the first official test of ElectionGuard, a voting software developed by Microsoft as part of its “Defending Democracy” project. ElectionGuard uses a relatively new form of encryption to secure votes and count them in minutes. It is designed to make hackers more difficult to enter the system, but also to make it immediately apparent if the system is tampered with.

Fulton Township, located about half an hour’s drive from Madison, has a population of 3,300. Less than 400 people drove through the snow to the town hall of Fulton, the city’s unique polling station, to vote.

“I expected the same old voting process with small pencils and small dot shapes but it wasn’t like that at all,” said Barbara Pifer, a Fulton voter. But Pifer said he was happy for the pilot: “It was good to see that they are trying to do something new and maybe start a process that will be a little safer and safer.”

Foreign interference in the American voting system has been the focus of election officials, cyber security experts and many voters ever since It turned out that Russia has interfered in the 2016 presidential election. And last week, the top electoral security officer of the intelligence community he told US lawmakers Russia is believed to be taking steps to interfere in the 2020 election with the goal of helping President Donald Trump to win.
The ElectionGuard pilot also arrived a few days after the debut of a different digital voting system – an app developed by Shadow Inc. and implemented by the Iowa National Democratic Convention for Caucuses – was a public disaster.

Microsoft plans to avoid this mishap by trying its solution in much smaller elections and by hand counting paper cards as a backup.

The company does not expect ElectionGuard to be used in the 2020 election. But after the technology has succeeded in Fulton, Microsoft executives say they are optimistic and will be widely adopted by the 2024 presidential election.

The company made the software code free and publicly available.

“When we saw what happened in 2016, the efforts made by foreign opponents to actually influence the voting process in the United States, we concluded that we had a responsibility as technology leader to see what Microsoft could help improve security and protection. of our elections, “said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president of consumer safety and confidence.

The voters made their selections on digital tablets, then saved them on a separate machine where they were protected and counted using ElectionGuard.

Making hacking “useless”

Most security experts agree that creating a truly adamant system is impossible.

“There is nothing I can do – that anyone can do, for that matter – to ensure there is no interference,” said Josh Benaloh, Microsoft’s senior cryptographer who developed the mechanism behind ElectionGuard.

For this reason, ElectionGuard is designed to be “obvious tampering”.

Each vote is individually protected using a process called “homomorphic encryption”. Individual voting encryption protects voters’ privacy and discourages interference. If a bad actor wanted to prefer a particular candidate, he would have to do the difficult job of deciphering each vote to also know which votes to change, Benaloh said.

After the polls are closed, homomorphic encryption allows you to calculate the votes and decrypt the result without ever deciphering the individual votes. A verification application also performs a mathematical equation at the end: if no vote has been tampered with, that equation will produce an expected answer. If the answer is different, it will indicate that election officials should double-check election results using a backup method.

The computer that performs all this calculation is not connected to the Internet.

A paper vote was generated for each vote in Fulton and the hand was ultimately important to ensure the accuracy of the system. When ElectionGuard and the document counting results exactly match, Microsoft executives, survey workers, and city election officials all applaud.

“It is not assumed that the devices cannot be hacked because it is a crazy assumption,” said Burt of Microsoft. “But what he does is that he says: even if he does (come violated), how can we make it useless for them?”

Restoring voter confidence

Microsoft’s solution is not only to secure elections against bad actors, but also to restore confidence among voters. After voting, voters left the polling station on Tuesday with a code that would allow them to access a portal the following day to confirm that their vote had been counted.

The portal does not specify in detail for whom each person voted, due to privacy issues, but because of the ElectionGuard verification application, it can confirm that the votes have been calculated accurately.

Voter confidence and the integrity of the voting systems are actually closely linked, said Meagan Wolfe, Wisconsin Electoral Commission administrator who worked with Microsoft to pilot ElectionGuard at Fulton.

“It doesn’t take a real violation or a real hack of a system, just a voice is enough to undermine someone’s trust,” said Wolfe.

“What we’ve heard from voters over the past few years is that they are interested in understanding the mechanisms of how and why their vote was cast correctly and how they can trust that nothing has changed in that process.”

In the 2016 presidential election, voter turnout dropped to 55% – a minimum of 20 years. prove bounced in mid-2018, but trust in the system remains a concern. Nearly 60% of American voters surveyed in 2019 said they were not confident in the honesty of the election in the country, according to a Gallup survey released earlier this month.

“We are in a very important place in democracy where people wonder if it works anymore,” said Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for the Arizona State University’s Global Security Initiative. “Are these systems compromised to the point where I no longer have to worry about participating? It’s a really dangerous place to be. If people can go somewhere to see their vote counted, this helps restore some confidence. “

Securing elections with Big Tech?

Microsoft’s entry into electoral security comes at a time when great technology is increasingly under control to compromise democracy rather than protect it.

Several major tech companies (Microsoft isn’t among them) are in front of antitrust probes by U.S. states and regulators. Social media networks like Facebook (FB) is chirping (tWTR) they have been criticized for not being able to stem disinformation and for their policies fact-checking ads bought by politicians.

Some Fulton voters on Tuesday expressed their skepticism about using technology to vote.

“I don’t really like this electronic stuff because it can be hacked. Where does the information go?” said James Abts, who has lived in Fulton for 41 years. “I’m just a little suspicious, that’s all.”

But since the controversial 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore – and the many problems with paper cards it came into play then: many electoral experts sought a better option.

The biggest challenge is to find a way to protect the many parts of the electoral system. Different jurisdictions across the country, often down to county level, can choose their own voting mechanism. In addition, voter registration databases must be protected and election results must be reported securely at state and federal level.

“American democracy is messy,” said Richard Forno, deputy director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Russia is trying to help Trump win in 2020, an electoral security official told lawmakers

Forno said it would be difficult to devise a solution to protect all those pieces of the American electoral system without the help of great technology.

“Who else will do it? A technology company has the money and the people to do research, development and testing,” said Forno, adding that other solutions could come from academics and technology startups.

For Microsoft, ElectionGuard is not intended to be a commercial effort.

“This is a step that we are taking for free, we will not profit from this,” said Burt. “The question is what can we do as a society to help defend our democracy and protect the vote?”

Microsoft has released the open source code for ElectionGuard, so that local election officials can use it without necessarily involving the company. Microsoft said the software will work with any voting system, which can vary widely across the country, as long as there is some electronic element. In Fulton, the software was linked to the existing voting hardware created by VotingWorks nonprofit.

After the Fulton pilot was successful, Burt said Microsoft plans to seek out other jurisdictions and voting hardware vendors for further, wider ElectionGuard tests.

And while ElectionGuard itself will not be a profit factor for Microsoft, Burt said that people’s trust in technology is the key to the company’s future.

“It will improve the security of the global ecosystem,” said Burt. “How does this benefit our shareholders? Because if, in the long term, people feel safe and participate in a digital ecosystem, and if we have good products and services to offer to that ecosystem, then we will make money.”


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Let’s join together to impose taxes on tech giants, say G20 officials

RIAD: Major global economies must show unity when dealing with aggressive “fiscal optimization” by global digital giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, G20 officials said Saturday.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is developing global rules to make digital companies pay taxes where they do business, rather than where they register subsidiaries. The OECD says that this could increase national tax revenues by a total of $ 100 billion a year.

The call to unity appeared primarily aimed at the United States, home of the largest technology companies, in an attempt to avoid any stalemate in the rules until after the US presidential elections in November.

“There is no time to wait for the elections,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said at a fiscal seminar on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 central finance ministers and bankers.

“This needs leadership in certain countries,” Scholz said, looking directly at US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sitting next to him at the seminar.

The taxes of digital companies and the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy are some of the hot topics for G20 financial leaders, of the 20 largest economies in the world, during their talks in Riyadh this weekend.

The OECD wants to establish a minimum effective level at which these companies would be taxed and seeks an agreement at the beginning of July, with the backing of the G20 at the end of the year.

“A coordinated response is not the best way to go, but, given the alternatives, the only way to go,” OECD director Angel Gurria said at the seminar.

But OECD efforts stalled late last year because of the last-minute changes demanded by Washington, which many G20 officials consider reluctant to deal with a politically complicated issue before the presidential elections.

Mnuchin said the OECD countries were close to an agreement on the minimum level of taxes, which he said would also help solve the problem of where taxes are paid.

“I think we all want to achieve this by the end of the year, and that’s the goal,” Mnuchin said at the seminar.

Several European countries, including France, Spain, Austria, Italy, Great Britain and Hungary, already have a plan for a digital tax or are working on one, creating the risk of a highly fragmented global system.




Apple needs an iPhone 5G now more than ever

The iPhone maker has been hit harder than expected by the coronavirus epidemic. The company said to investors earlier this week that it no longer expects to meet the revenue guide provided just last month for the current quarter, which ends in March. Travel restrictions, limited shop hours and factory outages in China Apple (AAPL) from the sale and realization of all the devices he had hoped for.

The situation increases the stakes for key product releases scheduled for the end of the year. In order to compensate for the performance drop caused by the coronavirus, the company will have to increase the demand for new iPhones, which are still its main revenue engine.

Apple has a great tool in its arsenal this year: a 5G-enabled iPhone expected to be released in September. Some analysts predict that the iPhone 5G will trigger a “super cycle” of device updates.

“Whenever there is a big switch function, from 3G to 4G and from 4G to 5G, this will easily be another big advantage in the iPhone device driver,” said Keith Gangl, portfolio manager at Gradient Investments.

But there are doubts that the ongoing outages caused by the coronavirus can cause problems – or even delay – the version of the iPhone 5G that many rely on to provide a big boost to society.

On Tuesday, Apple said it would no longer meet the $ 63 billion to $ 67 billion sales projection it gave for the current quarter when it posted profits last month. That range of orientation was already wider than usual, which Apple hoped could explain the potential impacts of the coronavirus.

Apple's revenue will be affected by the coronavirus that creates shortages of iPhone supplies, the company warns

Tuesday’s announcement creates further uncertainty because Apple has not specified how far its projections would have been, or how much of the lack is due to supply constraints versus falling demand, Gangl said.

“The virus itself is a mobile target, so it is difficult to speculate what it will mean for suppliers and demand. We need more data and more time,” said Gangl.

There are some indications that it is more of a supply problem.

On Wednesday, Nikkei reported that Apple is likely to miss its schedule for the release of a cheaper version of the iPhone S this spring, citing sources familiar with the issue.

About 15 million to 17 million units of the updated iPhone S would have been released in March, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told CNN Business.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

The less expensive iPhone S is another way for Apple to convince customers, especially those reluctant to shell out for premium models, to update their phones. This could have helped increase the company’s sales during the March quarter, especially in view of the generally slow summer quarter. But Ives said the new version of the phone will likely be launched in April.

“This doesn’t significantly move the needle,” said Ives. “But it’s another indication of how dramatically the supply chain has been adversely affected by the coronavirus tragedy.”

Some analysts fear that the delay of the cheaper iPhone S could be an omen for the 5G model later this year if the coronavirus continues to weigh on Apple’s supply chain.

“The impact of the limited manufacturing environment in China on the production of the new iPhones that are expected to launch in September is not yet clear at this point, but the offer limits are possible,” said Monness Crespi Hardt analyst Brian White, in an investor note.

White added that coronavirus-related production stoppages in China could also limit the production of equipment used to build 5G wireless networks, which are key to convincing customers to adopt 5G devices.

A delay in the release of the iPhone 5G would be a major blow for Apple, especially after its main competitor, Samsung (SSNLF), released a full line of 5G-enabled phones earlier this month.

“The stock is priced for a 5G upcycle,” said Gangient of Gradient. “It depends on how long it is pushed. If it’s weeks, it might be fine. If they miss the holiday season, it could be a problem.”

Wedbush’s Ives agreed, calling the iPhone 5G the “heart and lungs of the super cycle thesis.”

“If these were delayed by a few weeks, a month, it would have an impact on the quarterly trajectory but it is not something that would worry investors too much,” said Ives. “If he’s delayed for three to six months, it could be a problem.”

The next update on where things stand is likely to come when Apple reports earnings for the current quarter in April.


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The latest controversial trend in “sharenting”: reactions to the filming of children’s report cards

The video, which combines a collection of nearly 20 similar videos that CNN found on the platform, is part of an emerging trend of parents filming real-time reactions to their children’s ratings and posting them online. In one video after another, one parent sits the child down, tear the report card and announce how it behaved in each topic, highlighting both positive and negative feedback.

Many of the comments on the videos are positive, with viewers encourage the child to continue the excellent work. (Typically children in these videos overall he received top marks.) But some child psychology experts are still urging parents to think twice about public sharing and filming this type of reaction video, claiming it could cause anxiety, embarrassment and even frayed relationships between parent and child.

For much of the past decade, families and experts have struggled with sharenting, the concept of parents sharing social media details about their children. Many YouTube parent vloggers publish multiple videos each month, sharing intimate details about their lives, ranging from family financial problems to the birth of a new baby and going through a baby’s phone.

The rise of sharing report cards on YouTube could renew the long simmering discuss what is appropriate for parents to document online and whether a child can really agree to participate. CNN has contacted most of the parents behind these accounts, but they declined to comment or didn’t respond.

“There is a difference between being proud of your child and showing it on your fridge and sharing it on social media without agreeing or discussing it with them in advance, “said Alexandra Hamlet, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, who specializes in mood and anxiety disorders.

Although parents first ask their son’s permission, Hamlet says that “it is really difficult to have an adult conversation with a child to find out if they want their things to be published for the masses when they don’t really understand the fingerprint. ”

In some of the YouTube clips, the children appear embarrassed. After reviewing the videos, Hamlet said they they do not provide much context as to how hard they may have worked or their academic strengths and weaknesses. The decision publishing something personal such as the votes of the report cards, which in theory could be viewed online by a child’s colleagues, could also create potential trust problems.

Virtual kidnappings are shaking families in the United States

“A child might think, ‘If a parent publishes articles without my consent, can I trust them with secrets or things I’m proud of?'” Said Hamlet.

As they grow and gain access to the main social platforms, many of which limit registration to users under the age of 13, some children are. discovering a treasure of photos, videos and online captions that document the personal moments of their life over the years.
Tiffani Beaston, a mother who runs the Beauty & the Beaston Youtube channel with over 375,000 subscribers, he says he sees why some families do not leave the topics intact, including sharing report cards.

“Some people get so used to sharing everything about their lives, and that’s part of it,” said Beaston, of whom Canale typically offers cooking and cleaning tips, but also highlights his family’s daily routine and dives into deeper topics such as postpartum depression.

But Beaston, who makes a living on YouTube, said he felt strongly not capturing anything embarrassing: “We know we share a life online, but the privacy and dignity of my children mean much more.”


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Larry Tesler, creator of the copy, paste and paste function, is dead

Tesler was not as famous as computer giants like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. But it played a central and early role in making computers accessible to people without a computer engineering degree, that is, most of us.

photocopy (XRX), the company he developed the features for, tweeted the news of his death. “Your working day is easier thanks to its revolutionary ideas,” said the company’s tweet.

The cut, copy and paste, search and replace features are used millions of times a day without users thinking twice about how they were developed or by whom.

But before Tesler’s work, computer users had to interact with big programs in different “ways”, in which the same commands meant different things depending on how they were used. Even an expert like Tesler found out that it was a problem.

“Most interactive programs had ways, which always triggered me,” he wrote in a 2012 article on developing copy, cut and paste. Tesler became a champion of the elimination of modalities from computer programs. His personal website was

The elimination of the modalities has opened the door to the way in which computer users have interacted with personal computers for the past 40 years. Much of that work was not done in one of today’s tech giants, but in a computer lab at Xerox.

Today most people only know Xerox as a copier manufacturer, but in its heyday the company developed much of the technology that led to the personal computer: the mouse, a graphical user interface that allowed more than lines of text on a screen. The work was carried out at the Xerox Palo Alto research center based in Silicon Valley or Xerox PARC.

Tesler was at the center of these efforts and is credited with coining the terms “friendly user interface” and “browser” during his time at Xerox.

When Jobs visited Xerox PARC in 1979, he met Tesler. “You are sitting on a gold mine!” Tesler later remembered Jobs tells him. “Why aren’t you doing something with this technology? You could change the world!”
The jobs were right: Xerox was not taking advantage of the fundamental research done at Xerox Parc. So Apple (AAPL) become the first to make extensive use of the graphical interface, mouse and other features. Tesler left Xerox for Apple in 1980, where he served as vice president and chief scientist.
While there he helped design the Macintosh computer, QuickTime and the Computer Lisa, one of the first personal computers to use a graphical user interface. It was Lisa who popularized copying, pasting and canceling the familiar shortcuts. (This is C to copy, V to paste and Z to cancel.)

“I was mistakenly identified as the” father of the graphical interface for the Macintosh “,” wrote Tesler on his website. “I wasn’t. However, a paternity test could expose me as one of its many grandparents.”

Tesler remained with Apple until 1997. In 2001 he joined Amazon (AMZN), where he was vice president of the shopping experience. Then he went to Yahoo (YAHOF) in 2005, where he was vice president of user experience and design. He obtained numerous patents while working in those companies.
Until his death, Tesler was a consultant for companies like Western Union (WU) and the Evernote note-taking app on how to improve your user experience on desktops and mobile devices. He dedicated himself to innovation, simplification, improvement.
“Like my personality, if I ever hear someone say something impossible or extremely difficult, almost impossible, it’s a challenge and I always try to do it,” he said in an interview with the Silicon Valley Computer History Museum in 2013.

One thing he never surpassed: his hatred of modalities. He toured California with the personalized plate “NOMODES”.


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Apple may soon let you choose Google Maps and Gmail as the default iPhone app

Society is said to be having regard to the possibility of allowing people to choose the default iOS apps for a large number of activities, including maps, web browsing and email, according to a Bloomberg report. This means that you could potentially replace your iPhone’s default Safari or Maps app with alternatives such as Gmail and Google (GOOGL) Map.
This may seem like a minor, insignificant change, but it would signal a large concession for Apple. Could allow apps like Spotify (LOCATE) is Pandora (PANDY) be sent directly from Apple HomePod intelligent speaker, offering other developers fairer treatment shot of competition against Apple’s integrated services, the report says.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple (AAPL) it embraced a closed ecosystem when it launched the Apple’s App Store in 2008. This benefited the company’s profits and ensured a certain level of quality control over the customer experience with the iPhone and iPad. But over the years, increasing pressure from regulators, developers and consumers has slowly but surely opened Apple’s enclosed garden of an operating system.
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The company has gradually given its customers greater control, for example by leaving them delete the main apps and install third-party keyboards. But his efforts are still largely behind Google’s Android operating system, which has given its customers a much greater ability to customize phone experiences and default settings.

Loosing its grip on the ecosystem would be a big win for Apple competitors, which could access many more customers – and data – than before.

“By simply becoming the default browser on an iPhone, developers like Google could easily access potentially 900 million iPhone users and all their browsing habits on a constant basis,” IDC research manager Jitesh Ubrani told CNN Business. “The same goes for anyone who creates a mail app or music app – and that’s important because it could potentially slow down the growth of some Apple services.”

The move comes at a curious time for Apple as it appears to increase the revenue of its service business with apps like Apple Music and Apple TV +. But opening up its even more ecosystem could help Apple grow even the revenue.

“Many consumers prefer Spotify and this could have prevented them from buying a HomePod,” said Ubrani. “By allowing Spotify to be the default player on HomePod, not only can Apple get additional hardware revenue, but it could potentially get more revenue from services when users sign up for Spotify through Apple.”

Although it’s unclear if Apple will adopt this strategy going forward, it could also represent a new basis for the opening of other areas of iOS: it may seem like a long blow, but perhaps we could even see Alexa mistaken for Siri on the iPhone of the future.


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