Twenty years ago, the smartphone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and video conferencing were all emerging technologies. The world was revolutionized with the advancement of 3G or third-generation connectivity in our mobile phones in 2002, and now, nearly 20 years later, almost every mobile smartphone has the ability to connect to a 5G cellular network.
As technology evolves, so do its uses, especially in the political arena.
Technological advancements in voting were made following the 2000 presidential election which saw no clear winner on election night. Punch cards paved the way for new technology like electronic voting machines. Fast forward 20 years when a worldwide pandemic forced the country to find a new way to get to the polls. A record number of voters cast their ballots by mail, which led to a delay in the presidential election being called not on election night, but nearly three and a half days later.
This delay, and increased election scrutiny following the 2020 election, is causing some tech companies to find a solution that might make it easier and more efficient for people to vote. Earlier this year, the city of Chandler, Arizona, launched a pilot program using a smartphone app to vote. The “Voatz” app uses blockchain technology which makes it difficult to change or hack. It is the same technology used for the increasingly popular cryptocurrency.
While advances in technology are being used in positive ways, there is also a contingent using technology in a negative fashion.
Deep fakes use artificial intelligence (or machine learning) to replace the likeness of one person with another in video or digital media. While these videos have not found their way into mainstream media, some have been found floating around social media. The House Intelligence Committee held hearings on the potential malicious use of deepfakes to sway elections. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced legislation to respond to the problems posed by deep fakes.
So, the question we must ask is should innovation and security always be at odds? Is there a way to find a balance between the two? Join Secretary Janet Napolitano and Senator Mark Warner, two national security experts and public servants, for a fascinating discussion about the risks and opportunities of emergent technologies for voting, political engagement and much more.