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Oscars Security: May I Secure the Envelope Please?

Apr 01, 20032 mins
Access ControlData and Information SecuritySecurity

How do they keep the Oscar winners secret?

Greg Garrison is the keeper of the juiciest secret in Hollywood—the identities of the Oscar winners. As the lead ballot partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in Los Angeles, Garrison commandeers a group of accountants that tabulates the Oscar nominations and preserves the security of the results until each envelope is unsealed on stage. It’s a process that has remained low-tech and unchanged for 70 years.

At an undisclosed location, Garrison and his team of four to five accountants sift through the 5,700-odd ballots to determine the winners. The ballots are divided among the team members so that no one, other than Garrison and his partner, knows the identities of the winners. Scoffing at computer systems, which could be tempting targets to hackers, PWC guards the final tabulations and ballots the old-fashioned wayin a safe. The final tallies are completed on the Friday before the Sunday telecast, and Garrison and his partner place each winner’s name in an envelope and seal it personallypreparing two identical sets of envelopes in case something happens to one. The accountants carry the sets separately to the ceremony, escorted by armed guards via different, secret routes. At the awards, Garrison and his partner hand the envelopes to the presenters as they step on stage.

Are all these elaborate machinations necessary for Oscar’s security? Garrison believes so. After all, in Hollywood everyone’s got an angle. You never know when you’re going to be accosted by a persuasive diva who will try to charm the identity of the best actor winner out of youas Julia Roberts tried to do to Garrison last year. “You know a secret that everybody would like to know,” says Garrison. But other than that, it’s pretty much your usual accounting auditexcept the after-parties are better.