Edwin Smith, the VP for "Compliance/Quality/Certification" at voting-machine manufacturer Sequoia Voting Systems has sent a threatening legal letter to Ed Felten -- the Princeton law professor who's led many security audits of voting machines in the past.
The letter warns that if Felten and his colleagues publish any kind of security audit information of Sequoia's machines ("Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same") that Sequoia will "take appropriate steps" through its "retained counsel."
It's hard to imagine a stupider legal threat. Honestly.
First of all, if Sequoia's voting machines actually, you know, work, then why would they threaten legal action against Felten and co., should they publish their findings after a security audit? Presumably, manufacturers want testers to publish glowing reports of their goods -- Sequoia's basically saying, "We're scared of what you'll find when you pop the hood on our product."
The next time a jurisdiction is thinking of sourcing its voting machines from Sequoia, activists just have to show up with copies of this letter: "Why should we entrust our precious votes to a machine from a manufacturer who threatens to sue anyone who does a quality assessment of its products?"
And of all the people to send legal threats to, Felten is just the Wrong Guy. He's the guy whom the EFF represeted in a suit against the RIAA when they threatened to sue him for giving a talk on the abortive SDMI DRM initiative -- he gave the talk as scheduled. Felten doesn't fold, and he's friends with some really smart lawyers.
Dear Professors Felten and Appel:
As you have likely read in the news media, certain New Jersey election officials have stated that they plan to send to you one or more Sequoia Advantage voting machines for analysis. I want to make you aware that if the County does so, it violates their established Sequoia licensing Agreement for use of the voting system. Sequoia has also retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any non-compliant analysis. We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property.
Very truly yours,
Sequoia Voting Systems
Dear Edwin Smith: put it back in your pants before someone cuts it off.
(Image: Sequoia Voting Machine)