Hari Prasad is one of the winners of this year's Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Awards; in Prasad's case, the prize was awarded based on his excellent work dissecting the (deeply flawed) electronic voting machines used in India's elections. Prasad was imprisoned by Indian authorities for pointing out the many vulnerabilities he and his colleagues discovered.
Free again, Prasad continues to work for fair and honest elections in India, the world's largest democracy. EFF fellow Jim Tyre has written up Prasad's amazing story in a blog post. Prasad and the other Pioneer winners will receive their awards next Monday, November 8, at a ceremony at San Francisco's 111 Minna Gallery (I'm emceeing).
Even after Prasad was released on bail in late August, he was mostly prevented for a significant period of time from returning to his home, family, and work in Hyderabad. The police in Mumbai had the right to question Prasad every day, and in fact did on most days. Because of the substantial distance between the two cities, returning to Hyderabad for more than a few very short trips was a practical impossibility until early October. During that time, the police repeatedly questioned Prasad about the identity of the anonymous source and little else, and told him that he would be discharged if he revealed the name.
Subsequent to Prasad's release on bail, there have been a number of significant developments. The police have continued their quest to discover the identity of the anonymous source. An engineer and activist from Pune, Mukund Lagoo, was arrested and held without bail. Though not the anonymous source, Lagoo is believed by the police to be the person who made the physical delivery of the machine to Prasad. Dozens of others have been questioned by the police, including a former political leader who was able to get anticipatory bail in advance of being questioned, and many employees of Prasad's company and their families.
In early October, at a meeting between the Election Comission of India (ECI) and all the political parties, there was a substantial call for a trial use of EVMs with paper trails. However, Congress expressed satisfaction with the EVMs. (Congress is the name of the largest political party in India, it is not an equivalent of the U.S. Congress.) ECI asked its expert committee to study the feasibility of incorporating a voter verifiable paper trail into the EVMs, a significant change for ECI. Later, ECI invited all recognized national and regional political parties to submit suggestions to the committee, and to appoint their own technical experts to interact with the committee.
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- EFF Pioneer Awards in San Francisco, Nov 8