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About the Program



Invited Essay Program Panel


Marshall D. Abrams Invited Essay Program

2004 Invited Essayist

Ms. Rebecca Mercuri, Radcliffe Institute

Transparency and Trust in Computational Systems


Transparency and trust are inherently intertwined concepts but their relationship is not well understood. Some believe that trust is enhanced by secrecy, wbhile others maintain that obscurity reduces security. The example of anonymous voting is used to illustrate the manner in which external auditability can provide necessary assurances in computer-based transactions. Transparency issues related to standards, cryptography, intractability, usability, authentication, and risk are examined.


[PDF File] Essay
(Acrobat Format)

About the Author

Dr. Rebecca Mercuri became an overnight celebrity during the media frenzy that ensued when the U.S. Presidential election ended in a dead heat in November 2000. A few weeks earlier, she had successfully defended her Doctoral Dissertation "Electronic Vote Tabulation: Checks and Balances" at the University of Pennsylvania, and then found herself writing testimony in the now-legendary Bush v. Gore case that was working its way through the legal system. Her testimony was presented to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and referenced in one of the briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then, she has provided formal testimony on voting systems to the House Science Committee, Federal Election Commission, U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, and the U.K. Cabinet, has been quoted in the U.S. Congressional Record, and has played a direct role in municipal, state, federal, and international legislative initiatives. Rebecca's comments on election technology are frequently cited by the media, and she authors the quarterly "Security Watch" column in the Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery (archived at www.notablesoftware.com).

Rebecca is a senior member of the IEEE and serves in their working group on voting system standards. She is a co-founder of the Princeton professional chapter of the ACM/IEEE computer society. Having completed a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in their Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Dr. Mercuri's research efforts are currently supported by Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute.

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