Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proposed a cryptographically powered system they say could help the public track court orders that let law enforcement access people’s digital data without disclosing too much information.
The system, dubbed Accountability of Unreleased Data for Improved Transparency, or AUDIT, would create a digital ledger of data requests where prosecutors would agree to make their requests public at a later date, assuming court approval.
“While certain information may need to stay secret for an investigation to be done properly, some details have to be revealed for accountability to even be possible,” says graduate student Jonathan Frankle, one of the researchers on the team, in a statement. “This work is about using modern cryptography to develop creative ways to balance these conflicting issues.”
Similar to the blockchains that power bitcoin and other cryptographic currencies, the ledger would be designed to be append-only, so previous entries couldn’t be removed, though the authors write that either a distributed ledger or a ledger maintained by one trusted party, such as the Supreme Court or a court administrative agency, could be used.