Re: BusinessWeek published my letter to the editor

From: Joseph Lorenzo Hall <joehall_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Sat Jun 17 2006 - 11:34:29 CDT

On 6/17/06, Arthur Keller <> wrote:
> The principle that votes are cast in secret and tallied in public is
> incompatible with voting systems being protected as trade secrets.
> Besides paper trails, or even better paper ballots, voting systems
> should be open to public inspection, including source codes and
> design specifications. Public scrutiny helps Linux to be secure. It
> is secrecy that invites errors or fraud.

Right to the point of Arthur's comments, I've recently read a great
paper that talks about eliminating trade secrecy in public
infrastructure... very neat:

Levine, David S., "Secrecy and Unaccountability: Trade Secrets in Our
Public Infrastructure". Florida Law Review, Forthcoming Available at

Secrecy and Unaccountability: Trade Secrets in Our Public Infrastructure
Stanford University - Center for Internet and Society
Trade secrecy - the intellectual property doctrine that allows
businesses to keep commercially valuable information secret for a
potentially unlimited amount of time - is increasingly intruding in
the operation of our public infrastructure, like voting machines, the
Internet and telecommunications. A growing amount of public
infrastructure is being provided by private entities that are holding
critical information about their goods and services secret from the
public. This Article examines this phenomenon, which is largely
unexplored in legal scholarship, and identifies a significant conflict
between the values and policies of trade secrecy doctrine and the
democratic values of accountability and transparency that have
traditionally been present in public infrastructure projects.
This Article argues that in this conflict trade secrecy must give way
to traditional notions of transparency and accountability when it
comes to the provision of public infrastructure. Although there are
good reasons for trade secrecy in private commerce, when applied to
public infrastructure, the basic democratic values of transparency and
accountability should prevail, especially given that the application
of trade secrecy doctrine to public infrastructure projects causes
some unanticipated outcomes, like hiding information that could be
useful for the public at large and for the improvement of the specific
infrastructure project at issue. This Article examines the background
and history of trade secrecy and contrasts its values with those of
democratic government. It then shows the increasing impact of trade
secrecy on public infrastructure through three examples. Finally, the
Article suggests some potential remedies to this sphere of
increasingly conflicting values.
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Received on Fri Jun 30 23:17:08 2006

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