1993-03-02 - Re: Future of anonymity (short-term vs. long-term)

Header Data

From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
To: tytso@athena.mit.edu
Message Hash: 62fe06c62d86d2f92f41ad64d65efbbc412b21ab29bba715e09211b1f50355ea
Message ID: <9303021551.AA03777@maggie.shearson.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-02 20:59:20 UTC
Raw Date: Tue, 2 Mar 93 12:59:20 PST

Raw message

From: pmetzger@shearson.com (Perry E. Metzger)
Date: Tue, 2 Mar 93 12:59:20 PST
To: tytso@athena.mit.edu
Subject: Re: Future of anonymity (short-term vs. long-term)
Message-ID: <9303021551.AA03777@maggie.shearson.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

> From: Theodore Ts'o <tytso@athena.mit.edu>
>    From: Eric Hughes <hughes@soda.berkeley.edu>
>    >There doesn't seem to be a lot of realism in these discussions, which is
>    >really bothering me.  
>    What you believe to be real and what I believe to be real may be
>    different.  To claim that another is being unrealistic is to mask
>    what is foremost a difference in belief.
>    What assumptions here do you disagree with?  If you are explicit,
>    perhaps we can forge an agreement.
> Well, let's see.... the most recent assumption I disagreed with was the
> claim that we could implement full-fledged postive reputation filters,
> complete with the use of RSA, and deploy it on the Usenet in some sort
> of time-frame less than ten years out --- and even that is doubtful.

Oh, come ON. This is insane, Ted, and you know it. Project Athena didn't
take ten years. RSAREF is out there -- someone could build a version of
news that used public key for verifying moderation on newsgroups and
control messages within a month if they felt like it -- and working part
time, too. As for the rest, well, it shouldn't be too hard. For
unmoderated lists, keep sets of users you want to read the messages of
and verify signatures if forgery starts becoming a problem. Crude but it 
would work.

> Look at how many sites are running B News, long after C news has been
> out.  Anonymous remailers are here *today*.

Well, the folks running B News and C News will have to live without
the public key extensions, and it will be their fault. The people with
the public key extensions will have the benefits. Is it your argument that
because some men are fools all must suffer, Ted? Lets say that tommorrow
someone made available, for free, pills that cured all disease. Are we
to say "no, thats bad, some idiots won't take them?"

> Then there's assumption that anonymous ID's would automatically have no
> weight --- they may have very little weight, but even today, they
> probably have some weight.  I could probably construct some sort of NSA
> conspiracy theory, and have it posted so it looked like it came from 20
> different pseudonyms, and it probably would be believed by a lot of
> people.  

Yeah, well, so what? Right now people post such things non-anonymously, or
could forge such postings. People put out infinte supplies of garbage. I'd
argue that the average church causes more damage than all the anonymous
posters on Usenet ever could and those are perfectly legal. You aren't
arguing for non-anonymity. You are arguing that free speech is bad. Well,
fine. See if you can stop it, Ted -- the rest of us aren't playing along
with that game. Given that you have no choice but to accept reality, why
not quit bitching and just work on fixing the problem?

The Extropians list works on a closed subscription system today, folks. Its
crude -- no public keys involved, subscription checking done very ad hoc --
but it works. People ARE out there fixing these problems. If someone really
thinks anonymity is going to be a problem, they can fix it, and it won't
take ten years -- a couple of months of evenings would likely allow
for overkill.

> Fundamentally, however, there's the basic assumption that anarchy per se
> is good; which is a basic philosophical belief which I just plain
> disagree with.

That isn't even an issue here, Ted. Anonymity exists whether we want it
or not -- its like asking if gravity is a good idea. The anarchy issue
is not part of this. Even you would have to recognise that its impossible
even with a society as closed as the Soviet Union to stop anonymity, let
alone in a society as free as ours. The choices are to live with it and
find ways to cope or to try for draconian measures. One is practical -- the
other is impractical and harmful in and of itself.