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The Defence calls to the stand...Open Source Software.


In Memory...
Its long, but well worth the read.

Florida DUI law could push open source

'I'm not drunk, your software is'

Tom Sanders in California, 20 Oct 2005
A Florida court this Friday will hear arguments in a case where the accuracy of a breathalyzer is being scrutinised because the manufacturer refuses to release the source code.
Lawyers representing more than 150 defendants who have been charged for driving under the influence of alcohol in two Florida counties will file the request. They argue that they have a right to see the source code of the alcohol breath analyser that was used to determine their guilt.
"None of the [software] programs that were used here are approved," said Robert Harrison, a lawyer specialising in driving under influence (DUI) cases representing some of the defendants. "The question then comes to: is the difference [between these programs] material or not? Without seeing the source code, we do not know."
At the centre of the controversy is the Intoxilyzer 5000, a device made by CMI of Ownsboro, Kentucky. A marketing brochure for the device says that it is over 25 years old and touts it as the "standard for accuracy, reliability and courtroom evidence". Public information on the internet shows that it is being used worldwide, including in Norway, the US and Canada.
CMI didn't return repeated phone calls seeking further information.
Florida approved the Intoxilyzer 5000 in 1993, but the manufacturer has since made numerous changes, Harrison argued, and none of the changes have been certified. CMI had to recall its devices in at least one case due to a software error, he said.
Releasing the source code of the device could take away doubt about the device's accuracy, but the manufacturer in the past has said that it refuses to do so because it considers that information a trade secret.
The company's refusal could have far reaching consequences, giving past convicts of DUI charges a reason to appeal their rulings. It also has caused a backlog of DUI cases that await the results of this case to see if evidence that was gathered by the Intoxilyzer 5000 is still admissible in court.
Florida assistant state attorney Jason Miller said he will oppose the defendant's motion asking to see the device's source code at Friday's hearing. "It will be their burden to show that that information is material," he told Citing ethics rules, he declined to say why he opposes the open sourcing.
Florida law is very specific about the rights of a defendant in DUI cases. An appellate court ruling from February last year entitled defendants to learn about the inner workings of alcohol breath analysers by receiving copies of the device's manuals, maintenance manuals and schematics, as well as changes made to the device that aren't in those documents.
"It seems to us that one should not have privileges and freedom jeopardized by the results of a mystical machine that is immune from discovery, that inhales breath samples and that produces a report specifying a degree of intoxication," the ruling stated.
Friday's hearing will seek to include the device's source code to the information that defendants entitled to see. Although the judges in the case are said to be determined to come to a quick resolution, a ruling could take up to four weeks.
Because Florida's laws are so specific about the rights for individuals accused of drunk driving, assistant attorney Miller said that there are only " remote chances" that a ruling asking to release the source code can be used as a precedent for other states or countries.
The case does however signal a growing interest in the inner workings of computers as they gain a larger role in our everyday lives. With software bugs being a proven fact of life, consumers and organisations could claim that they need to be able to verify an application's source code before they accept their calculations as accurate.
In another case illustrating that a closed source could cause problems, authorities in the US last year called upon makers of electronic voting machines to publish the source code of their devices. Buggy applications there could allow parties in an election to manipulate the results, or could illegally prevent votes from getting counted. The voting machine debate received much attention in the US after the 2000 presidential elections in Florida turned into a vote counting soap.
Irish authorities too have scrutinised electronic voting machines over a perceived lack of reliability. Nedap, the producer of the machines refused however to provide the government with a copy of the device's source code. The parties last year agreed to an audit by a trusted third party.

A few months back I posted an article about cameras at red lights being beaten by a few math wizzes that proved the MD5 encoding is flawed. Well, I believe I prophecied something like this then. Looks like programmers are the new in crowd....well, if you want to get out of some tickets.