Law and Digital Records.
Burdens of Proof by Jean-Francois Blanchette. MIT Press. 2012. 276 pages. $30.
Paper documents were the standard of proof in law, business, and everyday life throughout the twentieth century, but the fairly recent conversion of nearly all of our written records into digitized data stored in computers is a whole new paradigm with some never-before-seen challenges, according to UCLA information-studies professor Jean-Francois Blanchette.
In Burdens of Proof, Blanchette looks at the inherent problems of "digital signatures" and the continuing challenge of ensuring that they are as secure and credible as the paper documents that they have replaced.
Legal experts have grappled since the 1980s over how to verify beyond reasonable doubt that an electronic document--whether it's a birth certificate, driver's license, passport, or anything else--is authentic. Numerous opportunities for document fraud exist. Further difficulties persist over the electronic voting systems that have replaced paper ballots in many electoral jurisdictions; allegations of machine errors and human ballot tampering have arisen in several U.S. election cycles.
Blanchette reviews the development of electronic documentation over the last few decades and assesses the present-day status. Although engineers have resolved many technical issues, to this day, an electronic signature does not in itself prove that a document is trustworthy. A person who views the document has to ultimately trust that the software architecture is sound and that no one has hacked into the system and tampered with the document in any way.
The author offers an overview of some technological solutions that may make for better cryptography and better security over records from fraud and abuse.
Burdens of Proof is a thoroughly analytical and highly technical read. It is well-suited for students and professionals in software engineering, law, and other related fields.
Edited by Rick Docksai