Monday, June 17, 2024

Bitcoin Blockchain Is Preventing Fraud In Guatemala’s Presidential Elections

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Bitcoin helps safe the truthfulness of Guatemala’s election outcomes.

Due to OpenTimestamps, a instrument created by bitcoin developer Peter Todd a couple of years in the past, Guatemalan tech startup Easy Proof is ready to safeguard key paperwork concerning the nation’s presidential elections from fraud and tampering. Todd’s instrument, which leverages hash features and the bitcoin blockchain, is ready to timestamp items of knowledge and make it simpler to identify makes an attempt at fraud and manipulation.

The concept of timestamping paperwork is pretty outdated. People and societies have relied on this system for hundreds of years to point when a doc was signed, when a cheque was written, or when somebody was born. Cryptographic timestamps, nonetheless, are a lot newer. They take the idea of human timestamping a step additional by counting on math as an alternative of a fallible and corruptible human being. Signatures may be solid by refined actors, and authorities may be topic to totally different incentives, making them able to being bribed or corrupted. Additionally, “to err is human,” whereas math makes no error if the right algorithms are used.

An instance of an excellent algorithm is a hash perform, a sort of mathematical perform that takes a variable sized enter to output a set size consequence. This consequence known as the hash of that enter. Hash features are used within the bitcoin community, notably in blocks that get added to the blockchain, in addition to by OpenTimestamps.

How Does OpenTimestamps Work?

OpenTimestamps leverages hash features to cryptographically timestamp any piece of knowledge into the bitcoin blockchain. On this case, math is being leveraged to enhance upon using human signatures or attestation, and the bitcoin blockchain is getting used as a decentralized digital ledger to anchor that data, linking it to a block. This ensures tens of 1000’s of nodes within the community can all independently witness the existence of the timestamp anchor and be capable of confirm that certainly that hash was added to a block which was mined at a sure time.

OpenTimestamps works by hashing the knowledge submitted by a given person and including it to a bitcoin block with a bitcoin transaction. Because the bitcoin block’s hash is calculated leveraging all the knowledge contained in that block, the timestamping information is critical for the calculation of that block’s hash. In different phrases, the idea with the timestamping is that the miner should’ve essentially began with that timestamp transaction –– together with the opposite transactions contained within the block –– to reach on the block’s hash. Which means that the knowledge that was timestamped will need to have existed previous to the creation of that bitcoin block. Since each bitcoin block has a timestamp of its personal, customers can examine the date and time that block was mined and be capable of be assured with mathematical certainty that the doc existed in a cut-off date previous to that block’s timestamp.

By itself, this assurance isn’t that priceless. Positive, it lets somebody show {that a} piece of knowledge existed previous to a given cut-off date, however how is this convenient? Properly, mixed with different sorts of data and proof, many issues may be deduced from this straightforward assurance. For instance, one can deduce that since that data existed earlier than that bitcoin block, any modifications to that data have been finished after that point if its hash is totally different.

The items of knowledge and proof mandatory for extra refined conclusions should be dealt with by the person as a result of, in the end, all that OpenTimestamps offers is the proof of inclusion of the hash of that data in that bitcoin block. Due to this fact, customers that requested the timestamp ought to maintain the unique data in hand in case they wish to show their information matches the timestamp. Given the properties of hash features –– the identical inputs at all times generate the identical output –– the hash would be the identical if the knowledge hasn’t been altered. Thus, it turns into fairly straightforward to inform if any alterations have been made to the unique data as a result of the hash can be totally different.

Beneath the hood, OpenTimestamps doesn’t put the hash of every particular person piece of knowledge being timestamped into bitcoin. That might be costly, as it might require one on-chain bitcoin transaction for every timestamp. As an alternative, OpenTimestamps leverages Merkle bushes to compact that data as a lot as attainable.

Much like how one can hash a big piece of knowledge and arrive at a set size hash, you may hash two hashes additional and get to a single hash. Likewise, you can begin with 4 items of knowledge, hash them individually, then hash them in pairs till you’re left with just one hash. The worth proposition of Merkle bushes on this context is all about scaling this setup, the place you may have a lot of particular person items of knowledge and also you hash them till you’re left with one hash –– the foundation hash. OpenTimestamps takes this root hash and provides it to bitcoin, distributing the price of a single bitcoin transaction to every preliminary piece of knowledge that was submitted for timestamping and used to assemble the tree.

Customers can nonetheless examine that their particular person hash was added, and that in the end their information was timestamped. They will leverage the OpenTimestamps web site, or go full cypherpunk and hash all the information till they attain the tree’s root hash and crosscheck with the information that’s on bitcoin.

What Does This Have To Do With Guatemala?

Guatemala has an extended historical past of corruption and fraud amid its political circles. Easy Proof was applied in that context by ITZ DATA as an immutable backup answer for the Guatemalan Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) –– the best electoral authority within the nation.

“The Easy Proof answer, named Immutable Backup, leverages the OpenTimestamps protocol to document proofs of paperwork in a tamper-evident method on the bitcoin blockchain,” Rafael Cordón, co-founder of Easy Proof, instructed Bitcoin Journal. “TSE used Easy Proof to safeguard official election paperwork and defend essential data from synthetic intelligence and disinformation, guaranteeing that any tampering of paperwork is made evident and any citizen can independently confirm the knowledge for themselves.”

Guatemala’s residents can examine any given tally sheet and confirm its proof of timestamp by way of a devoted net portal. Every sheet comprises the sum of votes for every candidate at a voting ballot. Due to this fact, transparency is supplied to the inhabitants concerning the tally sheets that have been scanned and used to depend the votes, in addition to when every tally sheet was timestamped.

You will need to be aware that this setup can’t attest whether or not a given tally sheet is legitimate or not; there may be nonetheless a belief assumption in the direction of TSE. Nevertheless, it’s an enchancment over simply taking officers for his or her phrase, as it’s, for instance, simpler to identify outliers amongst all of the tally sheets. Relatively than with the ability to inform voters particular validity data for any single tally sheet, OpenTimestamps permits an outline of the whole context of the elections.

For instance, it arguably shouldn’t take greater than an hour after voting ends to scan a tally sheet, add it to Easy Proof’s answer, and get it timestamped right into a confirmed bitcoin block. If nearly all of tally sheets fall inside that hour however a couple of have been timestamped for much longer after the closing of votes, it’s affordable to imagine that these outlier sheets have a a lot larger probability of being fraudulent than the opposite ones. In different phrases, within the occasion {that a} tally sheet was entered a lot after it was presupposed to, the timestamps are going to let you know that it’s suspicious that it took that lengthy to timestamp the sheet after the polls closed reasonably than lower than an hour later.

This was and nonetheless is being specifically vital within the context of Guatemala’s elections due to the strain there was main as much as the race, in addition to the outlier candidate who ended up successful it. President-elect Bernardo Arévalo wasn’t anticipated to even qualify for the primary race months earlier than it befell.

As soon as Arévalo received the presidential election, the outcry was huge. Officers from the workplace of the nation’s legal professional basic, María Consuelo Porras, raided amenities of the TSE, opening dozens of packing containers of votes, per AP. The opposing get together, UNE, claimed the victory was fraudulent and demanded a vote recount.

UNE posted a thread on X explaining their rationale with some alleged proof –– together with a screenshot of 1 tally sheet on Easy Proof’s net instrument that confirmed it was timestamped earlier than the polls closed.

Both in an try to push their narrative or by mistake, the screenshot of that tally sheet was taken on a distinct timezone than the nation’s capital official time, resulting in the one-hour distinction. On this particular case, bitcoin helped make sure the claims made by UNE have been false, and any citizen was in a position to confirm it by checking the timestamp on their pc. Notably, one did –– publishing a screenshot on X rectifying that the tally sheet UNE claimed had been tampered with had really not been timestamped too early.

Whereas bitcoin was designed and developed solely to unravel the double spend downside and obtain digital peer-to-peer cash, its community of nodes and decentralized ledger can energy different fascinating use instances.

On this case, it’s evident how Easy Proof performed an vital position in defending key election data. Had OpenTimestamps and bitcoin not been part of the method of securing that data in a cryptographic, public and decentralized method, there may’ve been a a lot larger outcry and tumultuous procedures to strive to make sure the knowledge hadn’t been tampered with. Doubts would probably nonetheless persist, and in a rustic with a historical past of fragile democratic procedures, the shaking of confidence may deter the president-elect’s means to steer the nation as its rightful new chief.

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