[LINK] Electronic witnessing

Philip Argy pargy at argystar.com
Sat Jul 31 14:30:07 AEST 2010

My point was that what GetUp implemented could probably not satisfy the "own
handwriting" requirement of s.98(2)b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act
despite the Electronic Transactions Act and despite the innovative idea of
using a mouse to create what might literally be describable as the witness'
"own handwriting".

There's no doubt that if the claimant were able to use a digital credential
and the application were implemented properly so that it could not be signed
inadvertently or without a full appreciation of what the applicant was
doing, then I'd have thought the witnessing of the signature could be
dispensed with.  Having said that, I also see no reason that two digital
signatures can't be used, with the witness simply being asked to sign that
they saw a person they know to be the named applicant affix their digital

When I give lectures on electronic evidence I often talk about what a
signature is, and make the point that signing it's an act with multiple
purposes that is very context dependant.  So my signature could appear on a
contract but I would not be liable if the capacity in which I signed was as
witness.  Similarly my signature could appear on a cheque on which the
amount had been altered fraudulently and I would not be liable if the amount
was not what I assented to.  

So what digital signatures are useful vehicles for adopting the benefit of
an anterior identity verification that was done with a degree of rigour that
would not be convenient to repeat at a later time when the benefit of that
is to be realised, such as when is to be used to sign an online document
whilst at home late at night.  But a signature as identity verification is
only one facet of a signature and standard digital signatures are incapable
of multi purpose use without a lot more context and intent-capturing
mechanisms surrounding their use.

Not sure if it helps the debate or even clarifies my views but it's
important for people to appreciate the complex and differing roles that a
signature performs as well as the importance of the context in which a
signature is affixed. 


-----Original Message-----
From: link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au
[mailto:link-bounces at mailman1.anu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Tom Worthington
Sent: Saturday, 31 July 2010 12:05
To: Stephen Wilson
Cc: link at mailman1.anu.edu.au
Subject: Re: [LINK] Electronic witnessing [was: High Court case Re: Register
Online to Vote Should be LLegal]

Stephen Wilson wrote:


> Philip Argy's point was that there is no accepted way to even invoke an 
> 'electronic witness' much less create enough forensic certainty to 
> support AEC investigation. ...

My point is that use of such "electronic witness" is not the appropriate 
way to provide the level of certainty needed.


> Surely if we don't do something serious now about e-authentication ...

We can be serious about e-authentication by using technology appropriate
to the job, rather than ones which mimic manual systems and are 
theoretically secure, but do not address real world problems.

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au

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