Machines can lie, even “under oath”. Volkswagen has proved this. The only thing that can protect the public is transparency via the right to examine code–especially code that is employed by government agencies.
Secret code is everywhere—in elevators, airplanes, medical devices. By refusing to publish the source code for software, companies make it impossible for third parties to inspect, even when that code has enormous effects on society and policy. Secret code risks security flaws that leave us vulnerable to hacks and data leaks. It can threaten privacy by gathering information about us without our knowledge. It may interfere with equal treatment under law if the government relies on it to determine our eligibility for benefits or whether to put us on a no-fly list. And secret code enables cheaters and hides mistakes, as with Volkswagen: The company admitted recently that it used covert software to cheat emissions tests for 11 million diesel cars spewing smog at 40 times the legal limit.