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EVM activist Hari Prasad wins prestigious US award

October 22, 2010 12:37 IST

Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru, who worked tirelessly and fearlessly to prove India's electronic voting machines could be tampered with to tweak results, and thereby jailed, will be awared a prestigious US prize, a acknowledgment of his 'critical insight and context to the tough questions that arise in our evolving digital world'

E-voting researcher Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru has won the prestigious 2010 Pioneer Awards conferred by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco. Vemuru is one, among three other winners. The award is a vindication of sort for Vemuru, a security researcher in India who recently revealed security flaws in India's electronic voting machines were jailed,  interrogated politically harassed. This was done to allegedly protect an anonymous source who enabled him to conduct the first independent security review of EVM machines in India, which have always been touted as tamper-proof.

Prasad had spent a year trying to convince election officials to complete a review, but was turned down each time. Officials insisted that the government-made machines were "perfect" and "tamperproof."

Yet, Prasad refused to cave in and instead of blindly accepting the government's claims, he and his team of international consultants discovered serious flaws that could alter national election results.

Months of hot debate have produced a growing consensus that India's EVMs  should be scrapped, and in that, Prasad hopes to help India build a transparent and verifiable voting system. Vemuru runs Netcom India Private Limited, a company in Hyderabad.

According to the Mumbai police, in April 2010, an EVM was stolen from a godown at Fort, Mumbai. The police said that on April 28, in a show on a private television channel in Hyderabad, Waimuru demonstrated that the EVM machine could be tampered with. Experts from foreign countries too participated in the show. Vemuru claimed that through tampering, voting and results can be affected and political parties can take advantage of this.

Mukund Lagoo, a civil engineer and a human rights activist, was also arrested in the same case.

Said EFF executive director Shari Steele, "These winners have all worked tirelessly to give critical insight and context to the tough questions that arise in our evolving digital world. We need strong advocates, educators, and researchers like these to protect our digital rights, and we're proud to honor these four Pioneer Award winners for their important contributions."

The other three winners are transparency activist Steven Aftergood; public domain scholar James Boyle; legal blogger Pamela Jones and the website Groklaw. The award ceremony will be held at 7:30 pm, November 8, at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF's Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Past honorees include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, and the Mozilla Foundation and its chairman Mitchell Baker, among many others.