Last week we began a tour of the Free Government Information web site. Today we stop at our authenticity page, which can be found by clicking on issues near the top of the main FGI page:
Then by clicking on Authenticity:
This page is an essay by James A. Jacobs which suggests that the problem of authenticity is more of a social problem than a technological problem. In part he says:
Trust is the social part of the solution
But this technological check does not solve the authentication problem by itself. The check against the hash is only as reliable as the trusted third party. The software just gives us a technical means of shifting who we trust — instead of trusting the party that delivered the document to us, for example, we trust a third party that tells us that the hash is correct and authentic. If the hash isn’t authentic and unchanged, the check against the hash is worthless.
This concept of a trusted third party is, therefore, an essential component of the authentication chain. That should lead us to an important question: who will we choose as our trusted third parties? This is important because the tools only work if we can trust the third party to do its job. In the case of government information essential to our democracy, this trust has to last forever.
For the complete essay, along with supporting links, please see the Authenticity issue page.
If you do read the essay, would you come back and comment? Especially on the basic concept that we need a “trusted third party” whose survival is not at the whim of the Government?
Next week we’ll continue our web site tour with an examination of our issues “preservation” page.
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