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Burdens of Proof

Cryptographic Culture and Evidence Law in the Age of Electronic Documents

MIT Press

The gradual disappearance of paper and its familiar evidential qualities
affects almost every dimension of contemporary life. From health records to ballots,
almost all documents are now digitized at some point of their life cycle, easily
copied, altered, and distributed. In Burdens of Proof,
Jean-François Blanchette examines the challenge of defining a new evidentiary
framework for electronic documents, focusing on the design of a digital equivalent
to handwritten signatures.

From the blackboards of mathematicians
to the halls of legislative assemblies, Blanchette traces the path of such an
equivalent: digital signatures based on the mathematics of public-key cryptography.
In the mid-1990s, cryptographic signatures formed the centerpiece of a worldwide
wave of legal reform and of an ambitious cryptographic research agenda that sought
to build privacy, anonymity, and accountability into the very infrastructure of the
Internet. Yet markets for cryptographic products collapsed in the aftermath of the
dot-com boom and bust along with cryptography's social

Blanchette describes the trials of French bureaucracies
as they wrestled with the application of electronic signatures to real estate
contracts, birth certificates, and land titles, and tracks the convoluted paths
through which electronic documents acquire moral authority. These paths suggest that
the material world need not merely succumb to the virtual but, rather, can usefully
inspire it. Indeed, Blanchette argues, in renewing their engagement with the
material world, cryptographers might also find the key to broader acceptance of
their design goals.
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Weitere Infos & Material

Blanchette, Jean-François
Jean-François Blanchette is Associate Professor in the Department of Information
Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of
Burdens of Proof (MIT Press).

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