1993-11-23 - Anonymity on the net

Header Data

From: “Alan (Miburi-san) Wexelblat” <wex@media.mit.edu>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: fefdd572c98113a0b94907d7cad832c1e15f8d40e1d9d36f1663d24047f720bb
Message ID: <9311231419.AA29570@media.mit.edu>
Reply To: <mmBgDc1w164w@ideath.goldenbear.com>
UTC Datetime: 1993-11-23 14:22:55 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 23 Nov 93 06:22:55 PST

Raw message

From: "Alan (Miburi-san) Wexelblat" <wex@media.mit.edu>
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 93 06:22:55 PST
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Anonymity on the net
In-Reply-To: <mmBgDc1w164w@ideath.goldenbear.com>
Message-ID: <9311231419.AA29570@media.mit.edu>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

From: greg@ideath.goldenbear.com (Greg Broiles)
>An anonymous/pseudonymous poster may want to expose faulty reasoning or
>research methods on the part of a previous poster, where that poster is
>their boss, faculty advisor, department chair, [employee of] generous donor
>to a nonprofit org .. etc.

This is closer to my case 2 in the sense that it's something black or
nefarious that is being discussed.  In these cases, as I noted before,
anonymity may help, but ultimately reputable researchers will have to review
the results to determine if there is in fact a fraud or other deception.

In addition, public "exposure" by anonymous sources is -- at best --
questionable.  The anonymous poster may simply be a rival with hir own axe
to grind and no interest in promoting the truth.  One or two instances of
this happening and people will (if they don't already) simply start
discounting anonymous denunciations.  There is a very good reason why our
legal system provides for people being able to face their accusers.

If you really need to get out information of this sort, posting is probably
a very poor second to informing a source with the ability to do a real
investigation.  This is what happened in the Patriot case: the Pentagon was
claiming amazingly high accuracy for the Patriot missile in the Gulf War.
Someone inside the Pentagon knew this was false; shortly thereafter about a
dozen people in the Establishment, in industry, in the media, and in academe
got information they could use to expose the fraud.  [I happen to know one
of these people personally; another is a professor at MIT.]

>This is useful for posting security holes that CERT/vendors won't
>acknowledge or address; it seems generally useful when posting something
>that might get you (a) fired or (b) sued. Consider the (ongoing, I think)

Again, we're in agreement here: Case 2 requires anonymity.  I continue to
harbor the dream that someday this country will move to a position where
people will be able to more freely speak their minds, no matter how ugly
their minds happen to be.

>There are still several places where it's not 'politically correct' to be
>known as a reader of/poster to groups like soc.motss, alt.sex.bondage, or
>other "controversial" groups. People may still want the sense of community
>that they can get from participating, while wanting to avoid the enforcement
>of PC-ness, possibly at the end of a baseball bat.

Yeah, this is true.  I'm on a very large mailing list which discusses a
number of private issues.  Many people get the list at their work email
addresses and contribute to the list anonymously for reasons like these.  I
guess I'm just too much of an idealist -- Greg is probably right here as
well.  I will just note that I tend to believe the gay theorists who note
that the closeted-ness of gays makes homophobia easier and more widespread.
Still, it should be each individual's decision how much sie wants to be

>Distributing "secret" information widely, in an encrypted form, can
>frustrate traffic analysis [...] (Assuming that it's meaningful to talk
>about sharing a 'secret' with 200 people .. :)

This is sort of the equivalent of the old coded-message-in-the-personals
approach.  Delivering a text which has no meaning except to a specific
intended recipient is probably a reasonable idea, but I wish there was a
better use of network resources than sending hundreds of bogus copies of
something to hide the real intended recipients.

>for an [in]famous person to say/do something mundane

That's a good point I hadn't thought of!  I'm still so jizzed about getting
my name recognized here and there it hadn't occurred to me that there would
be times I'd rather not be recognized at all.

Good points all!  Thanks for contributing to discussion.

--Alan Wexelblat, Reality Hacker, Author, and Cyberspace Bard
Media Lab - Advanced Human Interface Group	wex@media.mit.edu
Voice: 617-258-9168, Pager: 617-945-1842	PUBLIC KEY available by request
"To pleasure!" "To passion!" "To paradise!" "To pain!" "Tonight!"