New York Times (01/27/09) P. D3; Markoff, John
University of Washington researchers have released the first component of a public system that will provide authentication for an archive of video interviews with prosecutors and other members of the International Criminal Tribunal on the Rwandan genocide, along with the first portion of the Rwandan archive. The system will be available for others to digitally preserve and authenticate first-hand accounts of war crimes, atrocities, and genocide. The tools are needed because advancements in technology have made it possible to alter digital text, video, and audio in nearly undetectable ways. The researchers say the system means the authenticity of digital documents such as videos, transcripts of personal accounts, and court records can be indisputably proved for the first time. The researchers have created a publicly available digital fingerprint, known as a cryptographic hash mark, that will make it possible for anyone to determine that the documents are authentic and have not been tampered with. The digital hash concept was first conceived by IBM’s Hans Peter Luhn in the early 1950s, and the researchers are the first to attempt to simplify the application for nontechnical users and offer a complete system for long-term data preservation. Similar efforts to preserve a complete record of the World Wide Web and other documents led to computer scientist Brewster Kahle launching the Internet Archive in 1996. Another digital preservation effort was launched by Stanford University librarians in 2000. Their system, dubbed LOCKSS, for Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe, preserves journals by distributing copies of documents over the Internet to an international community of libraries.
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