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  • Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal uses Bitcoin timestamping to ensure electoral transparency.
  • OpenTimestamps and Simple Proof collaborate to protect key documents and detect fraud attempts in Guatemalan elections.

Guatemala’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal is taking an innovative step to ensure the integrity of the country’s presidential elections. Against a backdrop of histories of corruption and political fraud, this institution is using blockchain technology and Bitcoin timestamping to protect key documents and ensure that election results are transparent and reliable.

Guatemalan startup Simple Proof, in collaboration with Bitcoin developer Peter Todd, is making use of OpenTimestamps, a tool that employs hash functions and the Bitcoin blockchain to time-stamp election-related documents. This technique allows for efficient detection of any attempted fraud or tampering with election documents.

The importance of this initiative lies in the reliability it brings to the electoral process in a country with a history of distrust in its political systems. Cryptographic time stamps represent an advance in information security and transparency by eliminating the dependence on human signatures that can be forged or corrupted.

how does OpenTimestamps work and what is its relationship with Bitcoin?

OpenTimestamps uses hash functions to cryptographically mark any data on the Bitcoin blockchain. The information is anchored in a Bitcoin block, which ensures that tens of thousands of nodes in the network can verify its existence and timestamp date. This technology relies on mathematics rather than human reliability, making it highly secure.

The tool works by taking user information, calculating its hash and adding it to a Bitcoin block via a transaction. Since the hash of the block is calculated using all the information in it, timestamp data is essential for that calculation.

This means that the timestamped information must exist prior to the creation of the Bitcoin block. Each Bitcoin block has its own timestamp, which makes it possible to verify when that block was mined and to ensure that the document existed before that date.

This level of security is critical in an electoral context, where the reliability of information is important. It is important to note that OpenTimestamps does not verify the validity of the documents themselves, but rather guarantees the integrity and timestamp ofthe documents.

what does this have to do with Guatemala?

Guatemala faces a historical problem of corruption and fraud in its political system, which generates distrust in the electoral process. Simple Proof, in collaboration with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Guatemala, implemented the Immutable Backup solution using the OpenTimestamps protocol.

This allows to record evidence of documents on the Bitcoin blockchain in an immutable way, which means that any manipulation of the documents becomes evident and verifiable by any citizen.

Guatemalan citizens can verify the tally sheets and their timestamp through a dedicated web portal. Each tally sheet contains the sum of votes in a voting center and provides transparency on when each document was time-stamped.

It is important to clarify that this technology cannot determine whether a tally sheet is valid or not, as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal must still be trusted. This allows for the detection of anomalies and provides an overview of the electoral context. For example, if a tally sheet is date and time stamped long after the closing of the polls, it is considered suspicious and could indicate tampering.

This technology proved its effectiveness in the recent presidential elections, when the opposition UNE party accused the election winner, Bernardo Arévalo, of fraud. Using a screenshot of a time-stamped tally sheet in a different time zone, UNE attempted to back up its claims. However, Bitcoin’s blockchain technology made it possible to prove the accusations false, bolstering confidence in the electoral process.

Bitcoin, originally designed to solve problems related to electronic money, has proven its versatility in supporting use cases such as the protection of electoral integrity.

The collaboration between Simple Proof, OpenTimestamps and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Guatemala demonstrates how blockchain technology can play a leading role in protecting democracy and transparency in electoral processes.

This initiative not only strengthens confidence in the Guatemalan electoral system, but could also serve as an example for other countries seeking to improve the integrity of their elections.

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